Paul Taylor Dance Company used to have a lengthy residence in New York City every year. Since the pandemic, however, their appearances here have been sporadic, but the PTDC really returned in a weeklong residence at City Center, of which I attended the final two performances. The company looks to be in good overall shape. The program presented last night was three audience favorites – Roses, Offenbach Overtures and Esplanade. The auditorium was full and the applause was enthusiastic.

Paul Taylor Dance Company in Offenbach Overtures
© Steven Pisano for Bachtrack

Roses is a sentimental stroll for six couples. The opening five frolic through Wagner’s Siegfried Idyll. The first part of the dance has couples doing playful somersaults and carthweels over each other. The final couple is rather stately and set to the calmer, more regal Adagio for Clarinet and Strings by Heinrich Baermann. A standout was Madelyn Ho and John Harnage in the most playful, acrobatic duet. Roses is a lovely, romantic ballet and it’s always a pleasure to watch.

Offenbach Overtures is a parody of many of the tropes of classical ballet and operetta. There’s a drunken ballerina constantly falling over and two dueling dancers. The men do pirouettes à la seconde and milk the applause, a female dancer leaves the stage imitating Odette’s swan arms. It’s the sort of work that needs personalities with very strong comedic timing to work. Last night, the work was cute without ever being truly funny. Jada Pearman and Michael Apuzzo were delightful as the main couple, and it was a nice send-off for Apuzzo. It was a pleasant watch, but not more than that.

Paul Taylor Dance Company in Roses
© Steven Pisano for Bachtrack

Esplanade is the company’s most famous piece and always a surefire closer. Almost all the dancers who I saw in this ballet for so long (Michelle Fleet as the running girl, Sean Mahoney as the Father) have retired. The new crop of dancers threw themselves into the skips, hops, sprints and slides that Taylor threw into this exuberant work. Kristin Draucker was delightfully mischievous as the new Running girl. It’s simply impossible for Esplanade to fail.

Paul Taylor Dance Company in Esplanade
© Steven Pisano for Bachtrack

But last night ended with a bittersweet note. It was the farewell of Michael Apuzzo, another Taylor veteran. He has been with the company since 2008. At the end of the evening, the stage was awash in bouquets as Apuzzo took his final bow.

Paul Taylor himself ran the company with an iron fist until his death in 2018. Since then, many beloved members of the company have retired and few of the dancers in the sixteen-person company were personally hired by Taylor. Whether artistic director Michael Novak can maintain the standards set by Taylor remains to be seen. This company is certainly worth preserving.

*****