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Zachary Lewis, The Plain Dealer  |  November 08, 2013

Paul Taylor Dance Company returns to Cleveland with works reflecting founder's core identity

With Paul Taylor, the legendary choreographer, art imitates life more than most.

Much like the dances he's been making since the 1950s, Taylor's working mind is free and clear. Sure, he explores dark, somber subjects, but he does so without restraint or undue seriousness.

"I don't carry around a lot of baggage," said the icon of American modern dance, 83, in a rare media interview. "When a dance is done, I put it out of my mind in order to start on the next new piece."


Paul Taylor Dance Company

When: 8 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 9.

Where: Ohio Theatre, PlayhouseSquare, Cleveland.

Tickets: $25-$70. Go to or call 216-241-6000.

That's not the only dimension in which Taylor himself resembles the now-canonic dances he's authored, most of which have roots in classical music.

No, like the creations slated to be presented Saturday by the Paul Taylor Dance Company at PlayhouseSquare, the choreographer, a former dancer with Martha Graham and Merce Cunningham, speaks without ornament or complexity. He's the quintessential man of few words.

Advising those few people new to his work on how best to appreciate it, Taylor simply instructed patrons to "sit there and relax. You're not going to be bombarded with a lot of indecipherable stuff."

Indeed, Saturday's program on the DanceCleveland series at Ohio Theatre, the company's first appearance here since the 2009-10 season, is about as straightforward as they come, featuring three pieces representative of Taylor's primary interests and key artistic principles.

Surely the easiest to comprehend will be "Mercuric Tidings," the most infrequently performed of the three. A plot-less, abstract dance set to music by Schubert, the work deals plainly in spatial formations and revels in the joy of movement and rhythm.

At the opposite end of the frequency spectrum is "Esplanade," Taylor's masterpiece of 1975 and one of the company's signature offerings.

"You€™re not going to be bombarded with a lot of indecipherable stuff.€

Here, in a work set to Bach, is exposed the choreographer's long-running fascination with mundane movement. In deploying such pedestrian acts walking, running, sliding and falling, Taylor renders the ordinary extraordinary. Again, art imitates life.

"It looks like anybody could it, or most of it anyway," said Taylor. "People will recognize the movement as things everybody does."

As for the third and newest work on the program, "Gossamer Gallants," created in 2011, the movements are common but not endemic to the human species. Rather, they're those of insects engaged in mating.

What emerges from the piece, set to Smetana's "The Bartered Bride," is the truth that in insect couples, the female is just as likely as the male to be the dominant or more aggressive figure.

"It's a comedy," said the choreographer.

Thinking back on his output for a brief moment, Taylor confessed to sometimes spotting room for improvement when watching an older work. He also notes that dancers today are stronger technically and more independent in terms of personality.

But more interesting to Taylor, on those occasions when he reflects on such matters, is his company's great endurance and popularity, and the fact that his secondary troupe, Taylor 2, is every bit as active as the main ensemble.

"It seems like a miracle to me," he said.

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