Celebration Tour Marks Paul Taylor Dance Company’s First Performances Since 2006
Paul Taylor, one of the most accomplished artists this nation has ever produced, helped shape and define America’s homegrown art of modern dance from the earliest days of his career as a choreographer in 1954 until his death in 2018. His eponymous dance company now brings its tribute “Celebration Tour” to the DeBartolo Performing Arts Center on February 7 and 8 for two 7:30 p.m. performances.
Having performed with Martha Graham’s company for several years, Taylor uniquely bridged the legendary founders of modern dance — Isadora Duncan, Ruth St. Denis, Ted Shawn, Doris Humphrey, and Ms. Graham — and the dance makers of the 21st century with whom he later
worked. Having helped shape his artform throughout a 64-year career, Taylor left an extraordinary legacy of creativity and vision not only to American modern dance but to the performing arts the world over. Surveying great moments in Paul Taylor Dance Company history, the planned program of the masterworks Aureole, 3 Epitaphs, Piazzolla Caldera, and Esplanade is a treat for The Bend’s dance lovers and a perfect Taylor primer for those new to dance.
“One of the funniest dances anywhere. An essay on posture and gesture — and genius.” – Newsday
His first major success, the sunny Aureole (1962) launched a golden age for Taylor’s then 8-year-old dance career. He set his trailblazing “loping antelope style” (New York Post) of modern movement not to contemporary music but to baroque concertos composed two centuries earlier. The Post also wrote, possibly considering the weightless white costumes, “There is an interestingly variegated luminosity of spirit that recalls fluffy clouds on Shakespeare’s summer’s day.”
Taylor’s first professional work and his first collaboration with artist Robert Rauschenberg was Jack and the Beanstalk. Two years later Taylor choreographed 3 Epitaphs (1956) set to New Orleans jazz funeral music for his own troupe while dancing for Martha Graham; once again collaborating with Rauschenberg on costumes. Of it, Newsday wrote, “One of the funniest dances anywhere. An essay on posture and gesture — and genius.” The piece 3 Epitaphs was also danced at Italy’s Spoleto Festival a few years later during Taylor’s first European tour.
The music of tango with its Spanish, Italian, Indian, African, and Jewish influences, was taken to new heights by Astor Piazzolla. Without a single authentic tango step, Paul Taylor captured the essence of tango culture. In a dimly lit dive, working-class men and women confront each other in sizzling sexual duets and trios in another Taylor runaway hit Piazzolla Caldera (1997). It had its creative process documented in the theatrical release Dancemaker, shown in the U.S. and abroad.
The exuberant Esplanade (1975) is the first work Taylor made after he retired from dancing and turned exclusively to choreography. Inspired by the sight of a girl running to catch a bus, he created a masterwork based on pedestrian movement. If contemporaries like Jasper Johns and Robert Rauschenberg could use ordinary found objects like Coke bottles and American flags in their art, Taylor would use such found movements as standing, walking, running, sliding, and falling. “It confers a mythic dimension on ordinary aspects of our daily lives. It’s unfaked folk art,” wrote The New Yorker. One of several Taylor dances set to music by Bach, it was immediately acknowledged by many critics and dance professionals as one of the greatest dance works ever created.
The venerable company is now led by Taylor’s chosen successor, Artistic Director Michael Novak. Of his role Novak has said, “Looking at this man’s oeuvre, and deciding how to honor him, has been at the forefront of my mind. And, in taking a cue from our Founder, I decided to do what has never been done: launch a multi-year global celebration that brings together masterpieces in his great repertoire, all to create an unprecedented opportunity for audiences to connect with Paul’s history — and the history of modern dance — like never before.”
Celebrate American master and dancemaker Paul Taylor at this once-in-a-lifetime tour to the DeBartolo Performing Arts Center, a two-day event February 7–8 that brings down the curtain on the Presenting Series 2019–2020 season of dance.