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Taylor 2: Too Fabulous

By Sarah Kaufman

Last night I had one of the strangest experiences in my years covering dance: sitting in a nearly empty theater watching superior dancers bring master choreography to life at such close range, I felt like I was onstage with them.

I'm pretty sure the other 50 or so people in the theater felt the same way I did about the Taylor 2 dancers--the six members of Paul Taylor's second company, which, being considerably smaller but scarcely less proficient than the primary troupe, tours to more modest venues. Those of us lucky enough to see this plucky group in the main theater of Montgomery College's Cultural Arts Center in Silver Spring were all clapping as hard as we could, and it wasn't just to make up for the fact that 90 percent of the seats around us were empty. (I think the emptiness was because this brand-new venue hasn't yet started marketing itself.) Taylor 2 put on an ambitious program of classic Taylor, danced with great care: "Aureole," his 1962 masterpiece set to Handel excerpts, alternately springy and meditative; "Runes," a mysterious, shadowy 1975 piece that seemed to channel a bit of hippie-era peyote-dream mysticism (or maybe that's the influence of "Hair" on me, which I saw earlier in the week at the Kennedy Center), and "Company B," Taylor's 1991 distillation of World War II zeitgeist.

Tonight--Friday--the troupe performs again, and for both the connoisseur and the newcomer to dance, I recommend a trip. The theater, at 7995 Georgia Ave., is not so hard to find: From the District, it's a straight shot up Georgia Avenue, just over the D.C. line. From the 'burbs, it's at the intersection of Georgia Avenue and East-West Highway.

The 500-seat theater in the new Cultural Arts Center is a primo place to see contemporary dance, with the stage thrust right out to the seats--any closer and you'd catch a dancer in your lap. It was especially wonderful to see "Aureole" this close, to really examine the fluid dynamics of this piece and feel awash in them, particularly in the second movement. Taylor, who was a competitive swimmer before he was a dancer, crafted this solo as an immersion in water, or as close to it as you can get on dry land. Manuel Sanchez made this plain in the expansive stretch of his full frame, in the feeling of pulling and gliding in his arms, and in the tilted-back balances in which he seemed to be floating in the depths.

"Company B" was the least well-served by Taylor 2's small cast; it, like "Runes," has been restaged for six dancers. Gone were the silhouetted boys dying in the background as the dancing continues, and with that element missing, so is the acute poignancy of the original piece--with the jolly, teasing come-ons that spill out of the Andrews Sisters songs (such as "Oh Johnny, Oh Johnny, Oh!" and "Rum and Coca-Cola") bubbling up in counterpoint to the battlefield agonies suggested in the shadows. Still, while The Taylor 2 version doesn't have the depth of the full piece, the dancing is still great fun.

Tickets are at www.tickets.com or by calling 240-567-5775.

By Sarah Kaufman  | November 12, 2010; 10:57 AM ET
Categories:  Dance, Reviews, Sarah Kaufman  
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