Legend lands in Vail for Dance Festival | VailDaily.com

Legend lands in Vail for Dance Festival

Ruth Moon
Vail CO, Colorado
Special to the Daily

BEAVER CREEK ” After more than a month of world-renowned classical music, live musical performances might seem commonplace to Vail Valley residents, but for dancers performing in Beaver Creek tonight, a live orchestra is quite unusual.

The New York City-based Paul Taylor Dance Company is in town for the first time for the Vail International Dance Festival. Monday night the company will perform a selection of now-classic Taylor pieces and a newly choreographed piece, “Changes,” which premiered on May 31 in Massachusetts. The dancers will perform to live music, something they’ve experienced only rarely over the last decade.

“It’s a treat for dancers to dance to live music,” said Don York, the Company’s longtime musical director. “People don’t know ” they go to a dance company and see a dance to CD and it’s not as exciting by any stretch of the imagination as having live music there. That’s why this Vail date is so neat. It’s like a return to the glory days.”

Live music became prohibitively expensive in the early ’90s and in response many dance companies, including the Paul Taylor Dance Company, turned from orchestra pits to tape players.

The orchestra will be conducted by York, who composed the music for “Diggity,” one of the dances to be performed tonight. He composed the music in 1978 and said the company hasn’t performed it with live accompaniment since the mid ’80s.

“It’s a neat, fun, real throwaway opener piece,” York said. “These cutouts are all over the stage and it’s almost nonsensical. … It goes through all kinds of musical styles.”

York isn’t the only one looking forward to seeing the Paul Taylor Dance Company in Vail. Having the Paul Tayor Dance Company in town is a big deal for The Vail International Dance Festival, even with its typical lineup of luminaries.

“It’s gargantuan, frankly, because Mr. Taylor is such a revered figure within the dance world,” said Damian Woetzel, former principal dancer with the New York City Ballet and Vail International Dance Festival artistic director. “It does a disservice to say he’s a great modern dance choreographer ” he’s one of the best choreographers in the world.”

Now in his second year as artistic director of the festival, Woetzel said the Paul Taylor Dance Company was his first call after last year’s festival ended. The company fits well with his goal of bringing established dance companies and dances to the festival, he said; in the past, dances have more often been produced specifically for the festival.

Paul Taylor’s choreography has been making headlines since before he started his own company in 1962. One of his earliest dances, titled “Duet,” consisted of him and another dancer standing still onstage for four minutes. In response, a reviewer published four inches of white space. But the criticism did not stall Taylor, who has never much cared for accepted dance norms and is now widely regarded as one of the greatest modern dance choreographers alive.

He went on to choreograph the radical dance “Esplanade” in 1975, set to a composite of music by J.S. Bach. “Esplanade” is a study in natural movement, a departure from accepted dance norms at the time. Now regarded as a modern masterpiece, Taylor said he was just experimenting.

“At the time, I got interested in natural movement ” just running, walking, falling down ” and made a whole dance out of that,” Taylor said in an interview with the Vail Daily. “That was ‘Esplanade,’ and that really hadn’t been done to that degree before.”

The next year, Taylor choreographed “Cloven Kingdom,” a satirical dance in which dancers in tuxedoes deteriorate from dignified adults to “humorously grotesque” characters. The men’s quartet from “Cloven Kingdom” was performed last night at the Ford Amphitheater, and “Esplanade” will be part of tonight’s performance.

And if you’ve always thought animals would be out of place in the Vilar Center, tonight is your chance to see that social norm disregarded as well.

“Diggity,” the third piece on tonight’s program, is a routine in which dancers dodge around 30 metal dog cutouts scattered across the stage. The dogs are modeled after Taylor’s dog, Didi, the company’s unofficial mascot.

Staff writer Ruth Moon can be reached at 970-7482935 or rmoon@vaildaily.com.

What: Paul Taylor Dance Company performs “Changes,” “Diggity” and “Esplanade”

Where: Vilar Performing Arts Center, Beaver Creek

When: 7:30 p.m. Monday

More information: Call 970-845-TIXS or visit http://www.vilarpac.org.

NEW YORK CITY ” Back in New York City, the dancers were busy practicing when the Vail Daily visited in May.

The company’s 17 dancers, whom Taylor described as “a professional family,” hail from across the U.S., Indonesia and Jamaica.

They rehearse in an unmarked studio in the SoHo area of Manhattan. Sandwiched between a Banana Republic outlet and a local shoe store, the building blends in with its surroundings. The studio itself is unassuming; a blue-tiled hall leads to a dance studio on the second floor where Taylor sits in a cracked green vinyl chair to conduct rehearsals.

An old CD and tape player behind the beat-up chair is a reminder that even world-renowned artists struggle to get by sometimes, and Taylor said budget is a key factor in his new choreography. (“What can we afford? Can we afford a set this time, or not?” he asks.)

But Taylor, who lives 10 minutes from his SoHo studio and walks to work every day ” as he has since he started dancing professionally at age 21 ” enjoys his job all the same. After all, he branched out into choreography simply because he loved the art.

“In the early days I just wanted to be a dancer, so I made up some steps and things and got some friends to be in the pieces, and that’s how it started,” he said in an interview with the Vail Daily.

Taylor, who at age 79 still choreographs one or two new dances each year, said he plans to keep moving ahead with his company.

“(We’re going to) keep taking risks with new pieces, trying to forge ahead,” he said. “(We’ll) keep doing what we’re doing, only better.”

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