Modern-dance icon Paul Taylor returns with a program of new and classic work. | Dance | Pittsburgh | Pittsburgh City Paper

Modern-dance icon Paul Taylor returns with a program of new and classic work. 

Paul Taylor Dance Company performs 1982's "Mercuric Tidings" and 2010's "Three Dubious Memories."

click to enlarge Paul Taylor Dance Company's "Three Dubious Memories." - PHOTO COURTESY OF TOM CARAVAGLIA
  • Photo courtesy of Tom Caravaglia
  • Paul Taylor Dance Company's "Three Dubious Memories."

Few choreographers have a movement language and a body of works as identifiable to audiences as does Paul Taylor. The brilliant and sometimes enigmatic choreographer's 57-year-old modern-dance company returns to the Byham Theater on Oct. 22 to present three of his dance works courtesy of Pittsburgh Dance Council. 

For some younger dancers and audience members, Taylor's approach can appear somewhat dated. For others, like dancer Michael Novak, one of the newest members of the Paul Taylor Dance Company, the genius of Taylor's works transcends time.

Novak began his dance training in his hometown of Rolling Meadows, Ill., studying tap and jazz and switching to ballet at age 18. But it wasn't until he was introduced to modern dance and the works of Taylor, at Columbia University, that he says he found a style combining the attributes he liked about tap, jazz and ballet.

"With Taylor I found the perfect balance," says Novak, speaking by phone from Frostburg, Md., where the company was performing. "The work is stylistically precise and technically challenging, with a human quality and theatricality to it."  

Since joining the company in 2010, Novak says his education in Taylor's deep repertory has come quickly. In Pittsburgh, that education will be put to the test as he will dance in every piece in the program.

The program opens with 1982's "Mercuric Tidings," which The New York Times once called "a dance work that bursts seemingly into song." Set to music by Schubert, the 23-minute work "is extremely fast and full of complicated patterns," says Novak. 

For "Three Dubious Memories" (2010), set to music by Peter Elyakim Taussig, Novak portrays a chorister in a classic Greek chorus that comments on the three main characters' memories of a specific event. "The piece is about how different perceptions can alter a single event," says Novak, who was involved with "Memories" during its creation.  

The program closes with Taylor's tango-esque masterpiece "Piazzolla Caldera" (1997). The Spanish-flavored work, set to music by Astor Piazzolla and Jerzy Peterburshsky, is set in a dance hall where men and women are driven by predatory urges. 

"The dance is not about love," said Taylor in the 2000 documentary Paul Taylor: Dancemaker. "It's about physical sex and those relationships we make do with sometimes." 


PAUL TAYLOR DANCE COMPANY 8 p.m. Sat., Oct. 22, 2011Byham Theater, 101 Sixth St.,
Downtown. $19-50. 412-456-6666 or



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