Mark Harris

Paul Taylor Dance Company at the Brighton Festival 2003 Treat yourself to a festival of motion as the legendary Paul Taylor Dance Company performs three of the choreographer's greatest works

Paul Taylor, one of the greatest figures in modern dance, will be bringing his company to the Brighton Festival in May as part of his first UK tour for nearly thirty years. Although describing himself as 'an American mongrel', there's no sign of this old dog failing to learn new tricks, as he continues to challenge and excite audiences with breathtaking ease. As prolific as ever after nearly half a century, he recently completed his 119th work - and shows no sign of slowing down.

The birth of Taylor's dance career is stuff of legend. Spotted by the 'high priestess of modern dance' Martha Graham while a college student on a swimming scholarship, Taylor spent the next seven years working with her as a soloist. After forming his own dance troupe in 1954, Taylor almost immediately courted controversy with his revolutionary post-modern choreography.

7 New Dances in 1957 and Aureole five years later cemented his reputation as a dance visionary, the latter work being the first modern piece to be performed by an international ballet company when it entered the Royal Danish Ballet's repertory. Of his work, Taylor says, "The main thing is to keep things alive, to keep that vital spark which each audience is a part of." More than any other modern dance-maker, Taylor finds inspiration in a range of styles and themes, from ragtime and reggae to tango and Tin Pan Alley.

During the Festival, Taylor's company of sixteen dancers will be performing three pieces that demonstrate the liveliness and inventiveness of his work. The first of these, Offenbach Overtures, is a frothy romp brimming with exuberant high spirits and set to Offenbach's toe-tapping music. This is followed by a Taylor classic, Company B, set to the tunes of the Andrews Sisters and filled with an irresistible exuberance that makes it a real crowd pleaser.

The final piece, Promethean Fire, uses three pieces by Bach and is considered by many to be the culmination of Taylor's lifetime commitment to dance. Conceived in New York during the chaos of September 11, Promethean Fire is a soaring celebration of human spirit, a stunning combination of simplicity and emotional power. The New York Times said, "It has grandeur, majesty and a spiritual dimension. It is also, quite simply, one of the best dance works choreographed by Paul Taylor. To say that it lifted the audience out of its seats on Saturday night would not be an exaggeration."

The Paul Taylor Dance Company is performing at the Brighton Dome on Friday 9 and Saturday 10 May at 8pm, with a free talk following Friday's show. There's a special family matinee featuring Promethean Fire and Offenbach Overtures only on Saturday at 2.30pm. With an introduction by Olympic ice-skater Robin Cousins, the matinee is an ideal opportunity to welcome children and young adults to modern dance.

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