Trailblazing modern dance company bringing inclusive work — and work ethic — to Denver

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2min 16sec
Courtesy Paul Taylor Dance Company/Whitney Browne
Dancers perform Larry Keigwin’s “Rush Hour,” which will be performed at DU’s Newman Center.

The Newman Center in Denver is hosting a world-renowned dance company … one often cited as one of the trailblazers of modern dance.

On May 30, 1954, Paul Taylor debuted his choreography in Manhattan with five dancers. That performance launched a body of work that continues to influence American modern dance today.

Dancer Jada Pearman knew she wanted to join the Paul Taylor Dance Company after seeing clips of Taylor’s work during her studies at the University of Arizona

“It was a clip of Esplanade, and I would just say how the women in Dance of America just flew through the space. Not only the women, the men, the athleticism, how graceful they were and the pedestrian movement, and Paul's use of light and dark throughout his pieces,” Pearman said. “That's what made me really wanna be a part of the company.”

Pearman said Taylor’s choreography allows the dancers to use every sense of human emotion. “So a lot of times you don't have to sit and act on stage because you can connect with his movement through real-life experiences that you're going through as a dancer as well.”

In 2018, only months before his death, Taylor chose dancer Michael Novak to take over as artistic director. 

Novak said it felt like the fates intervened and things aligned in a way that he never could have imagined. “But also felt incredibly right,” Novak said.

“So I felt like I was seeing an incredibly polished genius who was still pushing himself, always interested in the next thing. Always on to the next. What was his favorite dance? The next one,” Novak added.  “Paul's work and the company's ethos is very expressive, and it's very emotionally sincere, regardless if we're speaking about a work that's about love or a work that's about horror.”

The Paul Taylor Dance Company is back on tour but only because of the commitment each member made during the pandemic, continuing to work and dance — together. 

“And this is the community of artists who went through the past three years of unimaginable change, horrific cultural reckonings that are still going on, who dug deep into their art form and into creating new work,” Novak said.

That commitment has brought them through to this tour, and dancer Pearman said  the performance is designed to be inclusive.

“Paul really did want you to create your own story as an audience member. And even sometimes as a dancer, you know, he didn't sit up and write, ‘This is exactly what ‘Company B’ is about,’ and it allows your imagination and mind to create whatever you want to create and whatever you wanna relate to within his works.”

 She invites audiences to just go along for the journey. 

“I think if you come to the performance and sit there and have that open mind and really take in whatever you want to take in and take from the performance, then I think that's all we ask for,” Pearman said. “You know … just come with an open mind and be ready to go on the journey with us as we put on this amazing program.” 

The Paul Taylor Dance Company presents “Arden Court,” “Company B,” and Larry Keigwin’s “Rush Hour” Monday, March 27, at the Newman Center at the University of Denver.