Skip to main content Skip to footer site map

BWW Review: THE PAUL TAYLOR DANCE COMPANY at Eisenhower Theater


Company B and Esplanade at the Kennedy Center

BWW Review: THE PAUL TAYLOR DANCE COMPANY at Eisenhower Theater

The Paul Taylor Dance Company has brought a brief but cheerfully charming program to the Eisenhower Theater at the Kennedy Center for a short run through October 9. It's a thirst-quenching performance after our drought. The two pieces run less than 90 minutes, and time will fly because you will be. . . well, you know.

"Company B" (1991) looks easy because, to pop music sung by the Andrews Sisters, Taylor choreographed quotations in motion from what was once called "social dancing"--stuff civilians did at parties/clubs/the hop. But the genre mix demands of the dancers lightning fast shifts of style and detail: polka, swing, tap, the Suzie Q, the box step (ask your grandparents). In addition to the bits from popular dance, Taylor incorporated hip isolations á la Fosse, rondes de jambe, and massive amounts of Graham work on and up from the floor. "Company B" layers Dance History 101 with Taylor's trademark freedom of movement, icing the cake with part of the soundtrack of World War II. Easy, it is not. (Please find the Andrews Sisters; this is what YouTube is for.) The dozen or so dancers form a fine team, but often individuals stand out. Choreographed to dance wearing glasses and to flirt with all the ladies, Lee Duveneck brings goofy cute energy to "Oh Johnny, Oh Johnny (how you can love"). (Give me a break: the song was written in 1917.) Lisa Borres flirts lustily with all the gents in "Rum and Coca Cola." And Maria Ambrose and Devon Louis flirt gorgeously with each other in a dreamy and intricate duet, "There will Never be Another You." (Ambrose graduated from GMU magna cum laude. Louis graduated from the Duke Ellington High School for the Performing Arts; welcome home! )

In "Esplanade" (1975), Taylor used the complexity of Bach's music to unpack such commonplace movement as walking, running, and changing direction. There's a square dance; a clinic is staged on how to slide into second base. Gravity is frequently defied; the final score winds up being Dancers-infinity-gravity-also ran. Just go.

Former company member Michael Novak now ably leads the troupe as Artistic Director, aided and abetted by the spectacular Bettie de Jong (Rehearsal Director), who so often partnered with the late Paul Taylor.

For tickets, information, and Covid protocols, visit

(Photo of Maria Ambrose and Devon Louis by Stephen Pisano)

Related Articles View More Washington, DC Stories

Featured on Stage Door

Shoutouts, Classes & More

From This Author Mary Lincer