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Thursday, October 28, 2021

Paul Taylor Dance Company to perform at Mondavi this Saturday for first time in five years

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Headline: Paul Taylor Dance Company to perform at Mondavi this Saturday for first time in five years

Layercake: World-famous troupe renowned for choreography that tackles controversial issues

By ANNETA KONSTANTINIDES

Aggie Arts Writer

For those students who sink into depression every time August comes along and another season of “So You Think You Can Dance” ends, a new opportunity to watch contemporary dance is coming to UC Davis.

The world-renowned Paul Taylor Dance Company will be performing at the Mondavi Center in Jackson Hall on Nov. 13. Davis is one stop in the Company’s current touring season.

The Paul Taylor Dance Company was started in 1954 in New York by Paul Taylor, one of the youngest founders of American modern dance. Paul Taylor is known around the world for his powerful choreography.

According to Jeremy Ganter, the associate executive director for the Mondavi Center, Taylor’s work is one of the main reasons why students should come out to see the show.

“I think anyone should jump at the chance to see the work of one of the most significant American artists of all time, dance or otherwise, particularly while he is still very much alive and well, and continually making work,” he said.

Taylor is known for using dance to convey social observations and tackle controversial issues, which have included sexuality, war and spirituality. He has won countless awards for his choreography, including the prestigious Kennedy Center Honors.

The Paul Taylor Dance Company has built up a collection of 133 different pieces that range from the Company’s founding in 1954 to works choreographed in the present day. This, says Ganter, is one of the major strengths of the Company’s performances.

“Mr. Taylor and his staff care intensely about how every evening’s program is shaped – about variety, about emotional contrast, and about seeing the dancers and Taylor’s own aesthetic from multiple perspectives.  There are few dance companies who have the kind of depth to do this, and who do it so well,” Ganter said.

According to The New York Times’ reviewer Alastair Macaulay, Taylor’s method of using the individuals in his company to influence and update his pieces is one of the most intriguing aspects of Taylor’s choreography.

“Paul Taylor, more than any other living choreographer just now, seems to be so in love with his performers that he keeps needing to find and reveal fresh facets of them,” Macaulay said in his review of the company’s performance at New York City’s City Center on March 1.

According to Annmaria Mazzini, a current Taylor dancer, this is one of the best parts of dancing with the Company.

“You really get to explore all these sides and all these facets of your personality through Paul’s choreography, and it’s really challenging because he casts you in something that you might never have pictured yourself in,” she said.

The two pieces to be performed on Saturday include “Speaking in Tongues,” which Taylor has won an Emmy for, and “Also Playing,” one of Taylor’s more recently choreographed works.

“Speaking in Tongues” is an intense emotional piece about a religious community in the American South and how they speak about their spiritual beliefs in a public setting. The piece features characters such as Man of the Cloth, American Mother and Unwanted Daughter. The second piece, “Also Playing,” is a lighthearted dance about a vaudeville troupe, featuring a range of characters including a stripper and a prima ballerina.

Mazzini said these two pieces will show the audience the broad emotional range in Taylor’s work.

“Paul is the master of light and dark, but also the grey in between. You’re getting the extreme ends of each one. It’s going to be a very exciting performance.”

Mazzini, who performed with the Company in its first performance at Davis back in 2005, says that one of the best things about Taylor’s choreography is how it raises questions for the audience without ever vocally saying anything.

“Dance is a language without words and we like to leave it open to interpretation to each viewer. You can just look at the dance and experience the dance and whatever feelings it brings up within you is absolutely valid. There are no right or wrong answers.”

The Mondavi Center has been discussing having the Company come back since their first performance in 2005. Having them return this season is, according to Ganter, perfect timing.

“With two other great American choreographers, Mark Morris and Lucinda Childs, in place for the 2010-2011 Mondavi Center Season, the time seemed right to provide a broad look at some of the great American masters of modern dance all in one season,” he said.

Following the performance, there will be a question-and-answer session. Representing the company will be Andy LeBeau, a former Taylor dancer who is currently the company manager, and Betty De Jong, one of the original Paul Taylor dancers and the current rehearsal manager for the company. The session will be led by David Grenke, the chair of the UC Davis Theatre and Dance Department and a former dancer for Taylor’s company.

Tickets for the performance can be bought either at the Mondavi box office or online at the center’s website. Student ticket prices start at $12.50, and regular prices start at $25.

ANNETA KONSTANTINIDES can be reached at arts@theaggie.org.

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