Ballet and "Company B"

I went to see the Paul Taylor Dance Company on Saturday night.  On the program was a piece I'd never seen before, although so many ballet companies perform it: the lovely and amusing Company B.


Anyone who has seen the Taylor company perform knows how heavily his choreography is influenced by classical ballet.  His dancers also have extensive ballet backgrounds, and many of them performed in ballet companies before joining PTDC.  Therefore, it came as no surprise to me that Company B was so balletic, but after the performance I thought a lot about why so many ballet companies, including Miami City Ballet and ABT, have it in their repertories.  I think the answer is that not only do the steps feel good on ballet dancers' bodies, the structure of the piece also makes sense to their ballet-trained brains.


I think it's safe to say that most classical ballet pieces follow a certain pattern: The piece as a whole has different sections, clearly separate from one another, and the ratio of male to female dancers is fairly predictable.  The pairings of men and women are traditional, and there are usually several solos, with more masculine movement for men, and more feminine movement for women.  Such is also the case with Company B, which is set to songs by the Andrews Sisters.  There were womens' and mens' solos, pas de deux (man/woman), and ensemble dances.  The order of the dances was also balletic: start with an ensemble piece featuring the whole cast, then move on to solos, pas de deux, and smaller groups, and then finish with another full cast section.  I particularly enjoyed Company B because I felt like I could have danced it too, it looked so familiar and comfortable to my ballet mind.


What makes the Taylor company so special, though, is that yes, they clearly have good ballet training, but they add something else to it.  There's a freedom to their movement that ballet dancers sometimes lack, and an unstudied energy and lightness that I think is hard for classical dancers to achieve, given the intense and exacting study that their training demands.  I guess what I'm trying to say is that although ballet dancers can do Taylor, can they really be Taylor? 

Latest Posts

Complexions Contemporary Ballet's Tatiana Melendez Proves There's No One Way to Have a Ballet Career

This is Pointe's Fall 2020 cover story. Click here to purchase this issue.

Talk to anyone about rising contemporary ballerina Tatiana Melendez, and one word is bound to come up repeatedly: "Fierce." And fair enough, that's a perfectly apt way to describe the 20-year-old's stage presence, her technical prowess and her determination to succeed. But don't make the mistake of assuming that fierceness is Melendez's only (or even her most noteworthy) quality. At the core of her dancing is a beautiful versatility. She's just as much at ease when etching pure classical lines as she is when boldly throwing herself off-balance.

"Selfish choreographer that I am, I want Tatiana to stay with Complexions for all time," says her boss Dwight Rhoden, Complexions Contemporary Ballet's co-artistic director and resident choreographer. "She has a theatricality about her: When the music comes on, she gets swept away." Not too shabby for someone who thought just a few years ago that maybe ballet wasn't for her.

Keep reading SHOW LESS
Erik Tomasson, Courtesy SFB

The Anatomy of Arabesque: Why Placement and Turnout Are Key to Achieving This Crucial Position

Audition for any school or company, and they'll likely ask for a photo in arabesque. The position not only reveals a great deal about a dancer's ability, but it is also a fundamental building block for more advanced movements, like penché or arabesque turn. Beyond technique, it can be the epitome of grace and elegance onstage, creating unforgettable images—just try to imagine Swan Lake or Balanchine's Serenade without an arabesque.

Yet many dancers are unsatisfied with their arabesque lines, and students frequently ask how to improve their extensions. (Social media posts of dancers with extreme flexibility don't help!) In an attempt to lift the back leg higher, dancers may sacrifice placement and unknowingly distort their position in the process. How can you improve the height of your back leg while maintaining proper placement and turnout? We talked to a few experts to better understand the science behind this step.

Keep reading SHOW LESS

#TBT: Gelsey Kirkland and Mikhail Baryshnikov in "Coppélia" (1976)

Gelsey Kirkland and Mikhail Baryshnikov share the unique experience of having danced at both American Ballet Theatre and New York City Ballet during their careers. The two overlapped at ABT in the mid-'70s, where they developed one of the best-known partnerships in ballet. They were both celebrated for their dynamism onstage; however, in this 1976 clip of the pas de deux from Coppélia, Kirkland and Baryshnikov prove they are also masters of control.

Keep reading SHOW LESS

Editors' Picks