REVIEW: Dancing Through Life – A Look at Paul Taylor and His Work by Haley Sprankle

paul taylor dance co “I can’t help it.”

That is dancemaker Paul Taylor’s response when asked why he choreographs.

Taylor became a professional dancer and choreographer in 1954 and has astonished audiences with his innovative pieces since then. In relying on the music and the world around him, his work is unique and draws audiences in with its relatability and infectious energy.

The Paul Taylor Dance Company graced the Koger Center stage last night and performed three of Taylor’s pieces, each with its own distinct theme and vibrancy.

The first, Diggity, was a lively take on dogs and their interactions with each other. Each dancer executed their solos with grace and wonderful stage presence and then melted into a wonderful unity with the ensemble that not many soloists can accomplish. The ensemble as a whole displayed phenomenal transitions from energetic, fast movements to complete control, giving the piece beautiful shape and dynamic.

The second, The Word, shocked audiences with its eerie vulnerability. The piece featured what seemed to be school boys faced with their innate sexuality and inner desires, similar to what is presented in Duncan Sheik’s musical Spring Awakening. The dance featured ominous shadows, a lot of contrast in movement and formations, and amazing characterization. The piece was attacked with such intensity that audiences were left silent in fear of ruining the mood set by the piece with their accolades.

The show closed with the third piece, Esplenade, one of Taylor’s most well-known pieces. The dance is characterized by a sense of nonchalant playfulness as take on pedestrian movement, giving the piece a sense of realism. Between the beautiful canons, effortless formation changes, and complete trust between partners, the piece exuberated energy that was the perfect end to the evening.

The USC Dance Company is taking on Taylor’s much sought after choreography November 6-7 at 7:30 at the Koger Center in their Masterpieces of the 20th Century concert in which they will perform his piece Company B.

“When looking at the repertory that would be included in the season Susan Anderson spoke to Kyra Strausburg and Stacey Calvert to see what Paul Taylor work they suggested we look into.  Without hesitation both replied Company B. It is a work that was created for professional ballet companies.  Being that our program is known for its strong ballet concentration we saw this as a great opportunity to expose our students to something different,” Sabrina McClure, the Administrative Specialist of the USC Dance Program, says.

With the presence of Taylor’s company this past week, dancers who will perform in Company B were able to take advantage of their expertise and experience.

“The residency of the Paul Taylor Dance Company included the opportunity to present our rehearsal of Company B to the Paul Taylor Dancers.  They were able to provide feedback and suggestions on the work based on their own experiences performing the piece,” McClure says.  “The USC dancers were able to converse with their counterpart from the Taylor company to discuss their role and how to take their performance to the next level.  This amazing opportunity will give new light to the USC dancers to further investigate their movement and performance in Company B.”   

For 60 years now, Taylor’s work has influenced and impacted audiences and dancers alike, and will continue to impact the world of dance and the arts.

“Paul Taylor has made modern dance more attainable and relatable. The topics he touches are profound and sometimes controversial yet relatable to any audience,” McClure says. “His choreography is highly sought out by many professional companies based in different genres.  It is not specific to just modern dancers or just ballet dancers.”