The company continues the legacy of Paul Taylor, the groundbreaking modernist dancer and choreographer. Paul Taylor pushed dance forward with his bold works exploring love, nature, sexuality, war (he was called “among the great war poets”), and more. The Paul Taylor Dance Company performs his works and carries on his dance and vision into the 21st century.
We asked dancer Lee Duveneck questions about the company, his dancing, and Paul Taylor’s legacy.
How many dancers are in the company and how many states/countries are they from?
There are 16 dancers in the company, divided equally between women and men. The company members come from all over the U.S.A., with people originating from 11 different states. One of the newer dancers, Jada Pearman, is from Bermuda and we would all love to do a hometown show for her and enjoy some beach time!
What makes Paul Taylor Dance Company unique from other dance companies?
The work that Mr. Taylor created is unique in the dance world. All of his work, whether bright and classical or odd and dark, displays his keen observations of peoples’ interactions with one another. It’s work that’s both very approachable but also layered with a lot shifting tones and ideas. He was interested in working with dancers who were friendly and generous in spirit and showcasing them accomplishing extraordinary feats.
The work that Mr. Taylor created is unique in the dance world. All of his work, whether bright and classical or odd and dark, displays his keen observations of peoples’ interactions with one another.
What is your favorite piece choreographed by Paul Taylor?
Choosing one favorite of all of Mr. Taylor’s work is next to impossible. But I normally have one or two that preoccupy me for a while until another one nudges its way to the forefront. Right now, I’m entranced by one of his most famous pieces, Esplanade. He challenged himself to make a dance that featured movements we see every day, like walking, hopping, and running. With those, he created a dance that explores community, dramatic familial tension, and tender but unstable romance that culminates into one of the most thrilling finales ever made.
What is the most challenging part of the show?
I would say that in every Taylor work I’ve performed, there is that moment where I have to push myself past the point of comfort. Everyone in the company is striving to perform as largely and athletically as possible so, oftentimes, you are calculating how much energy you can muster to propel yourself into the wings so you can catch your breath and come back onstage strong again.
How are you carrying on Paul Taylor’s legacy?
We have an especially close relationship with our alumni, who are always either directing our rehearsals or teaching morning class. We constantly study a great deal of archival footage, and having the gift of alumni coaching us in roles that were made for them or inherited from the originator is amazing.
Personally, I’m now at a place where I am soaking up the knowledge of moving in Mr. Taylor’s style and I am also helping to pass that along to younger dancers in the company. It’s thrilling to see how their natural ways of moving are starting to evolve into the company’s style.
What has been your most memorable performance as a company member?
The first one that comes to mind was the last dance of my first New York season with the company. Paul was backstage watching us fly on and offstage with his usual amused grin. It was incredible to be on stage behind him as he took his final curtain call to thunderous applause.
What is one piece of advice you would give to aspiring dancers?
I always think it’s great for dancers to have a rich life outside of dance. Paul was very interested in animals and bugs specifically. I’m a history major and an art nerd in my spare time. I think having a large resource of interests colors the work you do in the studio and onstage.
Thank you to Mr. Duveneck for his thoughtful answers! Be sure to see him and the rest of the company in motion at the Center on February 7–8 at 7:30 p.m. We hope to see you there!