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Swan Songs, Debuts, and a Big Birthday

A 16th birthday symbolizes a point in one’s life when big changes are sure to follow. Less pivotal (if nonetheless a major milestone) is one’s 80th birthday, but sure enough, on this occasion for choreographer Paul Taylor, revolution is positively rife in a free, celebratory program tonight at Lincoln Center Out of Doors, at 7:30pm in Damrosch Park.

SyzygyFirst of all, there’s the program format. Taylor has perfected the art of the balanced program in the course of his long career. Generally speaking, three dances of no more than 25 minutes each are separated by intermissions. Each dance reflects a different genre within Taylor’s oeuvre, be it funny, dark, lyrical, political, joyous, philosophical. Individual programs are put together so that no two of a type are included. Tonight, however, Taylor 2 is crashing the big company’s party, leading off the show with two works (Three Epitaphs, from 1956!, to live music by Asphalt Orchestra, and a small-cast version of Esplanade), after which Paul Taylor Dance Company performs Airs, Syzygy, and Company B. Now that’s radical, and a veritable feast for Taylor fans.

Secondly, a sea change of sorts will take place among the dancers. Two veterans of PTDC retire following tonight’s performance – Julie Tice and Orion Duckstein. Aileen Roehl (Amy Marshall Dance Company) and Michael Novak (Gibney Dance and Daniel Gwirtzman Dance Company) will join the company, totalling 16 dancers. And Taylor 2’s Lincoln Center performance will feature company debuts by Alana Allende and Hank Bamberger, as well as a farewell performance by John Eirich. (Taylor 2 also performs on Aug 13 at the East River Amphitheater.)

You might think, so what — dance companies change constantly, right? But a spot in PTDC’s company is a big deal when you factor in Taylor’s rich, varied choreography and artistic legacy, not to mention a full-time job dancing. In fact, 350 people auditioned for the four spots. The dancers come to inhabit the roles they’re given. Each dancer brings special qualities to the stage, as no doubt the new members will. But I will miss Tice’s irresistibly optimistic demeanor and Duckstein’s poker faced slapstick. Their parting performances will be a bittersweet salute to Taylor on a night of celebration.

Image: Photo of Syzygy by Paul B. Goode.

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SundayArts is made possible in part by First Republic Bank and by the Rubin Museum of Art. Funding for SundayArts is also made possible by Rosalind P. Walter, The Paul and Irma Milstein Foundation, The Philip & Janice Levin Foundation, Elise Jaffe and Jeffrey Brown, Jody and John Arnhold, and The Lemberg Foundation. This program is supported, in part, by public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council. Additional funding provided by members of THIRTEEN.
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