Paul Taylor Dance Company to take Amp stage tonight for evening of modern dance

Paul Taylor Dance Company
Photo Courtesy of Ron Thiele
Paul Taylor Dance Company

Modern dance group Paul Taylor Dance Company will grace the stage at 8:15 p.m. tonight in the Amphitheater, and Michael Novak is excited to bring the company back to the Institution with a repertoire of work inspired and influenced by the modern dancer and choreographer.

Tonight’s program boasts two recently-created pieces. The first, “Echo,” was created by resident choreographer Lauren Lovette and had its world premiere in November. The second, “Somewhere in the Middle,” was created by Amy Hall Garner and premiered in 2022.

“It’s a very beautiful, fun, buoyant, just effervescent work. It shows off the athleticism and joy of the Taylor company really well,” said Novak, artistic director of Paul Taylor Dance Company.

The choreographers are “looking at the Taylor dancer and the Taylor movement style and incorporating it into their work, but not being limited by it. They’re finding new ways to have the expression shine through,” Novak said.

The program will close with a piece paired with the Brandenburg Concertos, composed by Johann Sebastian Bach.

For those who would like to immerse themselves further into the Paul Taylor Dance Company experience, Chautauqua Dance Circle will host a preview with Novak at 7 p.m. today in Smith Wilkes Hall.

Paul Taylor Dance Company was established in 1954 by modern dance pioneer Paul Taylor. Upon Taylor’s death in 2018, Novak became the second artistic director of the company, having been selected by Taylor before his death as his successor.

“Paul Taylor — before he was a choreographer — was a competitive swimmer. What audiences might not know is that a lot of our movement vocabulary — not just being athletic in terms of its power in the legs and in the pelvis — but the fluidity of the back and the arms, which comes from Paul spending hours in the pool,” Novak said.

It’s a distinctive style that company choreographers still honor and innovate. 

“There’s often a plasticity and a flow that you’ll see manifest in different ways but it’s a core of how we move, and Lauren (Lovette) and Amy (Hall Garner) take that into different directions in a really exciting way,” he said.

Novak said he believes it is important that Chautauquans go into the performance with an open mind and engage critically with how the pieces make them feel. While there is often a push to understand the meaning behind works of art, he said hopes Chautauquans will focus more on how the dances make them feel and how they respond emotionally.

“It’s important to ask oneself: How does modern dance make you feel? There tends to be a push to ask what things mean, and we need to have meaning, and without meaning, art can be confusing,” Novak said. “I strongly encourage audiences to come in with an open mind.”

He hopes that the performance will linger with audience members long after this evening.

“I always hope that when people leave a Taylor show, that they have left awestruck and curious at the same time — and that at least one or two images from the performance are stamped into their brain as a moment that just transcended what they might have expected from the evening of dance and that it’s seared into that brain,” Novak said.

Tags : Amy Hall GarnerChautauqua Dance CircledanceJohann Sebastian BachLauren LovetteMichael Novakmodern dancePaul Taylor Dance Company

The author Julia Weber

Julia Weber is a rising senior in Ohio University’s Honors Tutorial College where she is majoring in journalism and minoring in art history. Originally from Athens, Ohio, this is her second summer in Chautauqua and she is excited to cover the visual arts and dance communities at the Institution. She serves as the features editor for Ohio University’s All-Campus Radio Network, a student-run radio station and media hub, and she is a former intern for Pittsburgh Magazine. Outside of her professional life, Julia enjoys attending concerts, making ceramics and spending time with her cat, Griffin.