The Paul Taylor Dance Company has visited Philadelphia 15 times. But this week's NextMove Dance series show at the Prince Theater is an extra-special chance to see one of America's most beloved modern dance companies in an intimate setting.
At 87, Taylor is still creating dances, but the company has brought a trio of his classics: the 1981 Arden Court, 1991's Company B, and 1975's Esplanade. The Pennsylvania Ballet has performed Arden Court and, more frequently and recently, Company B.
Set to music by baroque composer William Boyce, Arden Court opens the program highlighting the strength of the company's men and exploring relationships. In beautiful balletic moves, but with intentionally unpointed feet, the men leap with seemingly little effort and turn carelessly. A woman jumps on and over her partner, lifted as though by chance as he moves. In a humorous section, a man and a woman dance next to but not quite with each other — until she finally notices him. The men often partner with one another in Arden Court, a "new" trend in dance that Taylor has been doing for decades.
Company B is a mini-musical delight, set to a suite of songs by the Andrews Sisters — "Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy," "Pennsylvania Polka," "Rum and Coca-Cola" — and danced with swagger by Taylor's men and with fast, exaggerated movements by the company's women. It's all humor and light. But the realities of World War II creep in as men drop to the floor and join a procession of soldiers stepping slowly through a death march in the shadows at the back of the stage.
The program closes with Esplanade. Set to a compilation of violin concertos by Bach, it is an extravaganza of hop-step pedestrian movements, folk-dance steps, and frequently changing geometric patterns — the sort of rousing mix of styles that Philadelphia audiences are accustomed to seeing from Koresh or BalletX. The dancers hop on and over one another, throw themselves on the floor, and then peel back off. One leaps past each of the others as they roll by her on the ground. It's nonstop and exhilarating.
The stellar 18-dancer company has three with local roots: Sean Mahoney from Bensalem, Jamie Rae Walker from Levittown, and Michael Novak, who studied at the University of the Arts and the Pennsylvania Ballet Academy.