Andy LeBeau has never met a dancer who didn’t relish Paul Taylor’s style.
“Dancers fall in love with the work upon their first experience,” said LeBeau, a retired Paul Taylor Dance Company member who now directs Taylor 2, the smaller second troupe that is currently running a summer intensive for dance students at Skidmore College.
“It’s challenging, but it’s so kinetic, natural and logical. I think, because Paul started dancing late, he created a style that moves the way your body moves.”
In 1993, LeBeau was one of five young dancers to be selected by Taylor to form T2. The company’s first days were spent at Skidmore College, learning a scaled-down Taylor repertory and teaching yet another group of eager students who attended the college’s annual intensive.
Paul Taylor Dance Company
WHERE: Saratoga Performing Arts Center, Spa State Park, routes 9 and 50, Saratoga Springs
WHEN: 8 p.m. today
HOW MUCH: $25 or $20 with an ArtsPass
MORE INFO: 587-3330 or www.spac.org
Two years later, the company returned to Skidmore. At that time, students Robert Kleinendorst and Julie Tice were swept up in the Taylor form. They went on to join T2 and now dance with the main company. This year, in the company’s fourth residency in Saratoga Springs, Dallas student Caitlyn Johansen has fallen in love with the aesthetic. And after hearing how Kleinendorst and Tice rose from Skidmore to T2 to the main company, the 16-year-old is hopeful that she too can join the Taylor pack.
“I was interested in the Taylor company before,” said Johansen, “But seeing the diversity in the movement, it’s so powerful. I feel so lucky to be here.”
LeBeau remembers feeling the same way.
“I was enthralled in 1993,” he said. “I’ve come full circle.”
It’s not just dancers who are enthralled with choreographer Paul Taylor. The dance maker has created more than 100 works that are visually alluring and fascinating to audiences too.
“It’s almost like watching a painting come to life,” said Tice, who has performed with the main company since 2000. “Paul takes full advantage of the stage. He creates this continuous ebb and flow.”
His works are often haunting, with insightful and dark social commentary, often packaged in a lighthearted wrapping. Consequently, his dim view of the human condition is presented with searing irony. His ability to layer substance and style has earned him the title of “living genius.”
In addition to tonight’s performance of the main company, Taylor 2 residency will feature the following events:
A Family Dance Performance: Taylor 2 performs “Airs,” “3 Epitaphs,” “Lento Duet” and “Company B” at 2:30 p.m. Saturday at the National Museum of Dance, 99 S. Broadway. SaratogaArtsFest pass required.
“The Wrecker’s Ball:” Film features Paul Taylor dances to pop music from the 1950s and ’60s. 8 p.m. Monday in the Dance Theater at Skidmore College, North Broadway. Free.
Lecture-demonstrations: Taylor 2 and director Andy LeBeau offer insight into the Taylor aesthetic at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday in the Dance Theater at Skidmore College, North Broadway. Free.
A student showing: Students will dance excerpts from the Taylor repertory at 2 p.m. Friday, June 19, in the Dance Theater at Skidmore College, North Broadway. Free.
Audiences can see for themselves tonight at the Saratoga Performing Arts Center. As part of the T2 residency, the parent company will perform two of its newer works, “Beloved Renegade” to music by Poulenc, and “Changes” to songs of the Mamas and the Papas. The company will also appear in the recently revived, action-packed “Mercuric Tidings” to music by Schubert.
LeBeau and T2’s six members will be in the audience. So, too, will the 31 students from the intensive, who will get an eyeful of what it takes to be a member of the Taylor troupe.
“ ‘Mercuric Tidings’ is very difficult,” said LeBeau. “Everyone says Paul tried to figure out how much movement he could fit into one piece of music. One dancer said she counted her turns. She turned 102 times. It looks deceptively easy. It’s a lot harder than it looks.”
Skidmore summer students will learn this by dancing excerpts from some of the choreographer’s masterworks, including “Aureole,” “Airs,” “Esplanade,” “Runes” and “Cloven Kingdom.” LeBeau says by studying these works, they begin to hone the necessary ensemble skills.
“The hardest thing for them are the patterns, formations” said LeBeau. “They just can’t think about their own role. They have to be aware of everyone in the whole piece and how their role affects the whole piece. People forget that the Taylor company is a company. We have to work together. There has to be that awareness of the structure, how it fits together. This is something that has to be learned.”
At the end of the first week, the students have grown to appreciate the dynamic. They are also encouraged to use their weight to become more grounded, like real people in motion. They are also expected to expand their range, for example, to use their backs to move every muscle more freely. And they are also asked to tone down the habit of staring at themselves in the studio mirrors.
LeBeau said he and the members of T2 seek to nurture, not scare or overwhelm the students. “We want them to enjoy the movement,” he said. “Usually, once they start dancing the pieces, it seals the deal for them.”
That seems to be the case thus far.
“Not one student as been absent for any of the sessions,” said LeBeau. “They don’t have to participate in everything. But they do.”
Tice said dancing at Skidmore with T2 was a revelation. She recalled realizing that all of the Taylor movement stems from the back and that his dances require athleticism and physicality.
“If you don’t like to move through space quite a bit, then it’s not for you,” she said. “But I knew right away it’s what I wanted to do. Being in the Taylor company became my No. 1 goal.”
Ultimately, the Skidmore session teaches more than students. It’s also a platform for the T2 dancers to hone their skills, onstage and in the classroom.
“It forces them to articulate what they know,” said LeBeau. “They can’t always demonstrate and expect students to understand. It forces them to dig deeper and to acknowledge their own strengths and weaknesses.”
In the end, says Tice, the journey from Skidmore summer intensive student to Taylor dancer has been gratifying.
“To dance Paul’s work is very fulfilling. It’s a real joy to share. I feel very lucky.”
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