The legendary Paul Taylor Dance Company returns for its third appearance at the Van Duzer Theater on Tuesday evening, May 7, followed by a cavalcade of spring concerts at local studios. Paul Taylor's exuberant style of movement has become a staple of the modern dance idiom, influencing it for over 50 years. Building on classical ballet and the modern vocabulary of the mid-20th century, Taylor's dancers dig into the floor with juicy pliés, voluptuous attitudes and low runs with outstretched arms, alongside awkward jumps and shapes that rebel against all that lusty gracefulness.
Taylor broke out on his own in the 1950s while dancing for the greats of the New York dance world, including Martha Graham, Merce Cunningham and George Balanchine. Now in his 80s, he is still constantly choreographing new works. Of the three dances on Tuesday's program, one premiered in 1986, the others in the past two years. A Musical Offering is a landmark dance much talked about in its early days because of the strangeness of choosing Bach for a ceremonial tribal dance. Although inspired by primitive sculptures from New Guinea, the sleek movement is anything but primitive. The choreography births a new tribe where rituals of the ancients meet their contemporary counterparts.
The most intriguing piece on the program, To Make Crops Grow, premiered last year but tells the story of The Lottery, a disturbing short story written by Shirley Jackson in 1948. Costumed in Depression-era clothing, the work is a Dust Bowl rite of spring. The female soloist is painfully exquisite in agonized prayer before her assassins, wringing her hands, then her arms, frantically twisting these limbs.
In Gossamer Gallants, the Taylor ensemble enters the world of insects. Imagine grown people dancing as insects in fanciful costumes, not unlike the adult magical creatures of Shakespeare's A Midsummer's Night Dream. This dance was made in 2011, over two decades after A Musical Offering. It's good to know that Taylor can still get weird.
What's it like for dancers to learn iconic works of an earlier generation and then work with Taylor on new pieces? Both are exciting, but each is different, according to George Smallwood, who first joined the Paul Taylor Dance Company in 2011. It's "the difference between reliving a part of [dance] history and knowing you may be a part of making it," Smallwood said over the phone from Manhattan. "Dances from the repertory ... I approach them with reverence for the people who did them before. You have to find that passion for yourself, to keep it fresh and keep trying to discover what it can be for you."
Paul Taylor Dance Company, Tuesday, May 7, 8 p.m. Van Duzer Theater on the HSU campus. Tickets at $45 general, $25 children and $15 HSU students are available at the University Ticket Office and at humboldt.edu/centerarts.
Also coming up this spring are another run of local performances, beginning with North Coast Dance's Dance ... the Final Frontier, on Friday, May 10. Look for the Andromeda Galaxy, alien battles and, of course, Princess Leias as kids and company members evoke outer space themes. Five performances are planned at North Coast Dance Studio, 426 F St., Eureka: at 7 p.m. on Friday, May 10, and at 1 p.m. and 4 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday, May 11 and 12. Tickets $10. One additional performance, at 7 p.m. on Wednesday, May 15, will be held at the Arkley Center for the Performing Arts, 412 G St., Eureka. Tickets $15, children $12, are available at www.arkleycenter.com or at 442-1956.
Global Bass, a world music dance night with DJ Pressure Anya and belly dance performances by Megz Madrone and Marjhani, is also coming up on Saturday, May 11, from 9 p.m. to 1 a.m. at The Arcata Theater Lounge, 1036 G St. Tickets for this 21-and-over evening are $10 in advance and $15 at the door, available from The Works, People's Records and the box office, 822-1220.
The Upper Studio and Humboldt Dance Alliance present the return of the romantic comedy A Midsummer's Night Dream, directed by Heather Sorter. Sorter has restaged her full-length ballet with guest artists Lela Annotto as Puck and members of the renowned Robert Moses Dance Company from San Francisco. Friday, May 31, at 7 p.m. and Saturday, June 1, at 1 p.m. and 7 p.m. at Eureka High Auditorium, 1915 J St. Tickets $15, $10 for children, are available at Berliner's Cornucopia, Threadbare and Wildberries. More information at 360-791-4817.
Trillium Dance Studios' spring concert theme, Arctic, invokes endless possibilities for dances inspired by the flora, fauna and climate of that frigid region. Along with showcasing her studio students, director Erin McKeever will be presenting work by Trillium's junior and senior companies. Saturday, June 8, 6 p.m. and Sunday, June 9 at 2 p.m. at the Van Duzer Theater on the HSU campus. For more information call the studio at 822-8408.
Trinity Ballet Academy of McKinleyville presents Little Red Riding Hood and Friends, an original ballet created by director Greta Leverett, featuring students aged 4 through adult, along with Trinity Youth Ballet, the academy's performing troupe. Saturday, June 8, at 3 p.m. at the Arkley Center, 412 G St., Eureka. Tickets available at 442-1956 and www.arkleycenter.com.
No Limits Tap and Jazz Studio's spring recital, "The Dance of LIFE," is planned for Saturday, June 15, at 6 p.m. and Sunday, June 16, at 2 p.m. at the Arkley Center, 412 G St., Eureka. Tickets $13, $9 children. For information call the studio at 825-0922.
The Ferndale Dance Academy presents Starlight Serenade, another original dance production written by the team of Michael and Laura East, this one in the Hollywood tradition of the unknown kid who becomes a star. Prepare to be entertained because these kids and teens sure can hoof it. Friday, June 21, and Saturday, June 22, at 7 p.m. at the Arkley Center, 412 G St., Eureka. Tickets — $15, $12 children 4-12 and $8 children 3 and under — are available at 442-1956 and www.arkleycenter.com.