Paul Taylor Dance Company Slates Three Weekend Performances

Tom Caravaglia

As part of the company's first visit to L.A. in 10 years, "Airs," "Banquet of Vultures" and "Gossamer Gallants" will hit the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion beginning April 11.

The last single-choreographer dance company rooted in the mid-century modern dance revolution is still led by the pioneering artist for which it’s named – Paul Taylor. Even at the age of 83 he is creating new works and, on the eve of his company’s 60th anniversary, recently laid out a bold new plan for the next sixty years.

This weekend the Paul Taylor Dance Company brings his virile and energetic style to the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion for three performances April 11-13 as part of their first visit to Los Angeles in 10 years. On the program are three works, Airs (1978) an upbeat piece highlighting the graceful line of his dancers, Banquet of Vultures (2006) an anti-war statement from the Bush years, and the lyrical insect-inspired Gossamer Gallants (2011). All three feature Michael Trusnovec, the company star, though they shun the usual ranking of soloists used by other companies, instead referring only to seniority.

The selections were chosen to represent three different styles in Taylor’s vast oeuvre of 140 works, a legacy that continues to grow. To protect that legacy, last month Taylor announced his plans for the company to expand, commissioning works from other choreographers for the first time ever. To help foot the bill, he’s selling three paintings given to him by his good friend, artist Robert Rauschenberg, in addition to a sculpture created by the artist for a 1962 dance piece, Tracer, to be auctioned at Sotheby’s next month.

“He’s been focusing for the past 60 years on his work and how it falls in the tapestry of modern dance,” company director John Tomlinson told the Hollywood Reporter. “Now he’s saying it’s time to broaden out a little bit and see how many works interface with the rest of the industry, with the rest of the art form, and see if he can help in the preservation and promotion of the art form.”

Taylor established his company in 1954, but was a soloist with the Martha Graham Dance Company from 1955 to 1962. He guest starred in Episodes, choreographed by Balanchine for the New York City Ballet in 1959, before dedicating his time to his company and becoming one of the most influential dance masters of his time.

Up until recently, Taylor wasn’t interested in legacy but when Martha Graham died in 1991 he was dismayed at the ugly legal squabbles that followed. And when Merce Cunningham passed five years ago and his company disbanded (as per his wishes), Taylor finally started thinking about the future. An inquiry was launched, studying the legacy plans of the aforementioned, as well as other great dancers, like Jose Limon, in order to determine what direction the company might take. Their findings were placed before Taylor who outlined the current plan.

“When Paul announced this to the board of directors they said, what are you, crazy?” Tomlinson says of the recent declaration. The company ran profits of 33 percent over the past two years and it didn’t make much sense to stir the pot. Taylor’s response was, “I’m looking to the future,” Tomlinson recalls. “Modern Dance is about the new. Modern dance is about what’s next, that’s why it’s called modern dance.”

Taylor has a list of choreographers he’s interested in working with but hasn’t mentioned any names. One thing for certain, he is not looking for people aiming to emulate his signature style. The plan calls for a hands-off approach to cultivating original dances from established as well as new voices in the community, including dancers from within the company.

“We have some of the finest dancers in the world,” boasts Tomlinson. “All Paul Taylor’s saying is it will be a great opportunity to let other people work with these dancers the way he does.”