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Paul Taylor Returns to the Mahaiwe

The Dance Scene

Paul Taylor has been making dances for more than 60 years, and is still going strong. His company will appear at the Mahaiwe Theater in Great Barrington July 9-12, with a selection of dances from the last 30 years including some of his best-loved works. I spoke to long-time company member Sean Mahoney last week to learn more about what it’s like to be a Taylor dancer, and what audiences can expect.

Mahoney first danced Taylor’s work at age 17, and now, more than 20 years later, he says it’s much more “emotional on a personal level” to return to certain works. He describes a duet in Company B, set to the Andrews Sisters’ buoyant songs, which he performs with Heather McGinley.     

“In ‘There Will Never Be Another You,’ I am looking past her while we dance together, and she’s looking at me yearningly — it’s her memory from before I went off to war.  I danced it as a younger man,” Mahoney says, but now the sense of loss in the piece hits harder. 

Taylor himself is still a strong presence in the company and is working on new dances. “He offers us a color palette to use, allowing us to paint it any way we want,” Mahoney says, describing Taylor’s creative process. He’s not up there demonstrating the movement anymore, but describing what he wants, like “do something turny and jumpy,”and letting the dancers elaborate.  

At the Mahaiwe, the company will perform “Esplanade” (1975), often described as Taylor’s signature work. Inspired by the sight of a girl running for a bus, it draws on pedestrian movements combined into an exuberant and joyful work to the music of Bach. “Piazzola Caldera” (1997), which explores tango music and culture,  and the grandly majestic “Promethean Fire (2002)” are among the dances being presented at the Mahaiwe. There is a different set at each performance.

“Modern dance can mean so many different things,” says Mahoney. “People who see Paul’s work for the first time won’t realize that three dances on the program are all choreographed by the same person, they are all so different.”  

Don’t expect an explanation of the meaning of the dances, Mahoney warns.

“He’ll just give a phrase or idea in the program, leaving you to discuss it with your friends after and come to your own conclusions.”

A special feature of the Mahaiwe performances is free admission for veterans to performances that include Company B, and 25% off other performances. Family matinees are $20 for the whole family.

For tickets, call the Mahaiwe Theater at 413-528-0100, or go to www.mahaiwe.org.