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Paul Taylor Dance Co. steps on campus

By Dana Budzaj, James Leija

U-M dance students will perform with the Paul Taylor Dance Co. Photo by Andrea Mohin of The New York Times.

More than a half-century ago, after performing in the companies of Merce Cunningham, Martha Graham, and George Balanchine, Paul Taylor became the youngest member of the pantheon that created American modern dance.

Now 80 — an age when most artists’ best work is behind them — Taylor is acclaimed for the vibrancy, relevance, and power of his dances. As prolific as ever, he continues to offer cogent observations on life’s complexities while tackling some of society’s thorniest issues. He may propel his dancers through space for the sheer beauty of it, or use them to wordlessly illuminate war, spirituality, sexuality, morality, and mortality.

While his work has largely been iconoclastic, since the very start of his career Taylor has also made some of the most purely romantic, most astonishingly athletic, and downright funniest dances ever put on a stage. UMS, in collaboration with the U-M Department of Dance, shine a light on Paul Taylor, with a day-long residency and three performances highlighting just a fraction of the more than 130 dances he has created, including the beloved Esplanade and a reconstruction of Orbs, his 1966 masterpiece. “What other artist today makes poetic drama of such variety and eloquence?

The Paul Taylor Dance Company (PTDC), established in 1954, is Taylor’s visual storybook. Angela Kane, chair of U-M’s Department of Dance, has worked as Company Historian for the Paul Taylor Dance Company since 2003. Kane’s forthcoming book on the company is under contract with University of Michigan Press.

An alternative method of creative expression developed in rebellion to the constraints of traditional dance forms, Taylor’s modern dance focuses on playful technique intertwined with emotion.  His dancer’s mesmerizing movements draw in audience members leaving them breathless in anticipation of the next step in the story. They embody the mood of the piece and communicate with the world through each step, leap and turn in the language of dance.

Taylor’s dance company, made up of 16 men and women, has toured the world with visits to more than 520 cities in 62 countries. By Taylor’s teachings, many of his past company members have gone on to create their own dances and form their own troupes.

Viewed as an innovative creator of performance art by his peers, Taylor’s work has been licensed for duplication by more than 75 companies worldwide. His collection of dance repertoire is 132 dances to date. Among his influential work is: “Aureole” (1962), “Scudorama” (1963), “Esplanade” (1975), “Speaking in Tongues” (1988),  “Piazzolla Caldera” (1997), and “Beloved Renegade” (2008).

Taylor’s work represents many unique art forms and styles as a result of his collaborations with numerous artists, including: Robert Rauschenberg, Jasper Johns, Ellsworth Kelly, Alex Katz, Tharon Musser, Thomas Skelton, Gene Moore, John Rawlings, William Ivey Long, Jennifer Tipton and Santo Loquasto.

“Born in 1930, Taylor began his dance career at Julliard during his teenage years in the late 1940’s. He has danced for reputable dance companies, including: Martha Graham Dance Company (1955) and the New York City Ballet (1959). He retired from performing in 1974 and has been solely devoted to creating masterpieces since then. Taylor is chorographer for two companies PTDC and Taylor 2, formed in 1993 and is among the most sought-after chorographers working today.

U-M Dance students to perform with dance company

U-M dance students will perform Sacre on two shared programs with the Paul Taylor Dance Company – a first in the entire history of PTDC in terms of a student group sharing the same stage as the main company. The first performance will be noon Friday, Oct. 8, and the second performance will be noon, Sat. Oct. 9.

Le Sacre du Printemps (The Rehearsal) will be followed by Also Playing.

Paul Taylor Dance Company at U-M’s Power Center

Program (Thu 10/7)

Speaking in Tongues (Music by Matthew Patton) (1988)

Esplanade (J.S. Bach) (1975)

Program (Fri 10/8)

Orbs (Ludwig van Beethoven) (1966)

Also Playing (Gaetano Donizetti) (2009)

Program (Sat 10/9)

Black Tuesday (Songs of the Great Depression) (2001)

The Word (David Israel) (1998)

Piazzolla Caldera (Astor Piazzolla and Jerzy Peterburshsky) (1997)

Ticket information, please visit University Musical Society (UMS)