REVIEW: Celebrity Series of Boston brought vintage effervescence to Boston with renowned touring group Paul Taylor Dance Company

Forget those troubles and get happy with the lively, comedic, and exciting Paul Taylor Dance Company.

Infusing classical, big band, and swing with a modern twist, The Paul Taylor Dance Company zealously delivered comedy, athleticism, romance, drama as well as some reflective moments wrapped in vibrant costumes by Marc Eric and Santo Loquasto with Donald Martiny’s exuberant set design.

Celebrity Series of Boston presented renowned national touring group, Paul Taylor Dance Company for a limited engagement from April 14-16 live and in person at the Boch Center Shubert Theatre.  The show was two hours including two intermissions.  Click here to see where Paul Taylor Dance Company will perform next and here for a look into Celebrity Series of Boston’s upcoming events.

Somewhere in the Middle by Amy Hall Garner Madelyn Ho w L-R Devon Louis Lee Duveneck Austin Kelly John Harnage Photo by Ron Thiele

Bright colors gleam over a black landscape as Count Basie’s booming, horn-infused rhythms measure carefree spins and leaps in Somewhere in the Middle.  Effervescent and gleeful in bursting lime, coral, teal, and mustard by Mark Eric, Madelyn Ho, Lee Duveneck, Devon Lewis, John Harnage, Maria Ambrose, Lisa Borres, Jada Pearman, and Austin Kelly delivered childlike wonder and an uplifting glow tumbling in somersaults and breezy lifts to heart thumping rhythms by Sarah Vaughan, Count Basie, Duke Ellington, and Bill Evans.  This joyful, upbeat spectacle, with captivating choreography by Amy Hall Garner, was only outdone by the subtle and spontaneous moments prevalent throughout the production.  A cheerful shout, an impulsive wave, a kiss on the cheek, a snap of the fingers, or a swift tap on the shoulder brought unique distinction to the performances, making it all the more thrilling.

Brandenburgs Full Cast photo by Ron Thiele

Brandenburgs, featuring music by Bach and his Brandenberg concertos, is an athletic, sophisticated, and romantic foray into classical ballet.  Featuring piano and fiddle-laden rhythms, dancers John Harnage, Eran Bugge, Madelyn Ho, Lee Duveneck, Alex Clayton, Devon Louis, Maria Ambrose, Shawn Lesniak, and Jake Vincent strut and promenade across the floor in regal stances which are at times, untamed, open, but always seamless by Paul Taylor.  Devon Lewis and Maria Ambrose deliver a romantic and moving Pas de deux which is the first of two reflective pieces within this production. 

Somewhere in the Middle by Amy Hall Garner Maria Ambrose Devon Louis Photo by Ron Thiele

Brandenburgs is a vigorous, rich, and robust performance that continues this compelling celebration, the second in a three part production.   Adorned in gold trimmed and flowing garments in various shades of green, the group’s impressive linear and synchronized movements depict elegance and grace ending their dance as it began. 

Company B Full Cast photo by Ron Thiele

The Paul Taylor Company saved the best for last with Company B, a salute to the famous Andrew Sisters.  Featuring the full cast that includes Christina Lynch Markham, Madelyn Ho, Kristin Draucker, Lee Duveneck, Alex Clayton, John Harnage, Maria Ambrose, Lisa Borres, Jada Pearman, Devon Louis, Jake Vincent, Jessica Ferretti, and Austin Kelly, the ten song tribute features enough liveliness and humor to lift anyone’s spirits.  Accessorized with flowers and simply dressed in flowing skirts and pants, white shirts, and accented red belts faithful to the late 30s and early 40s, Paul Taylor’s timely choreography infuses some popular dances of the era including the jitterbug, swing, the twist, and the polka in a mix of spontaneity, poignant reflections, and comic wit. 

One of the many highlights included a humorous spin to the Andrews’ upbeat and horn-infused rhythms of Oh Johnny, Oh Johnny Oh!  Featuring Lee Duveneck as a skipping Johnny in horned rimmed glasses and a gleeful smile, it is an unconventional, carefree and refreshing swing number about a guy who unwittingly attracts all the girls.  As the Andrew Sisters’ frank vocals state ‘You’re Not Handsome, it’s true’ the catchy song boasts more than its share of amusing, spontaneous, and sweet moments. 

Company B Lee Duveneck w cast Photo by Ron Thiele

Rum and Coca Cola features the art of the gaze as the tables are turned with Madelyn Ho under the captive eye of a spellbound group of men.  In a flowing, red trimmed skirt, Madelyn’s hip shaking, and high kicks as she flirtatious fans herself knock the boys off their feet.

Though the production is mostly spirited and joyous, Company B does make references to the poignancy of wartime with I Can Dream, Can I featuring Christina Lynch Markham’s beautiful solo dance recalling a faraway soldier.  The urgent Joseph! Joseph! depicts women, uncertain of the future, pleading to build a future with their boyfriends before they are shipped off to war.  Maria Ambrose and Devon Louis reunite for another duet for There will Never Be Another You, a bittersweet and symbolic number as memories of men pass by in haunting shadow by Jennifer Tipton

Paul Taylor Dance Company had a limited engagement in Boston, but they are still touring.  Click here to see where the Paul Taylor Dance Company will perform next and here for more of Celebrity Series of Boston’s dynamic, upcoming performances this season.

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