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Originally published Friday, October 2, 2009 at 12:05 AM

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Paul Taylor's company opens UW World Dance Series

The Paul Taylor Dance Company comes to Meany Hall with an unbeatable triple bill that centers on "Beloved Renegade," a eulogy Taylor just choreographed this year for Walt Whitman.

Special to the Seattle Times

Dance preview

Paul Taylor Dance Company

8 p.m. next Thursday, Meany Hall, University of Washington, Seattle; $20-$46 (206-543-4880 or uwworldseries.org.)

With the death of Merce Cunningham this year, it is consoling and bittersweet to have the Paul Taylor Dance Company at Meany Hall next week with an unbeatable triple bill that centers on "Beloved Renegade," a eulogy Taylor just choreographed this year for Walt Whitman.

Now the only remaining artist left from the cadre of landmark 20th-century American choreographers, Taylor — going full tilt at 79 — told The New York Times earlier this year: "The thing that made me know that I really wanted to make a dance about Whitman was that he believed the body and the soul were the absolutely same thing."

Set to Francis Poulenc's "Gloria," the new work follows a male poet figure through six dramatic scenes named for Whitman lines (e.g. "I sing the body electric"). A pure dance work, with no spoken word, it describes both the end of the poet's life and his passage to the afterlife.

"It is incredibly structured, incredibly emotional and incredibly narrative," says company manager John Tomlinson.

Two pieces from Taylor's earlier repertory bracket the new work. "Public Domain" (from 1968) is Taylor in his comic mode, creating an irreverent assemblage of music and movement set to snatches of Mahler, Beethoven, political speeches and Shakespearean dialogue (all works that fall, legally, in the public domain).

The piece, freshly restaged this past year, was performed once before in Seattle, in 1977.

The classic "Esplanade" is Taylor's roaring, virtuosic slip-and-slide modern dance set to Bach's "Violin Concerto in E Major" and "Double concerto for Two Violins in D Minor" (1975). It's a glorious demonstration of how simple movements, properly strung, ignite a blazing light.

Though it is a constant in the company's repertory, it — surprisingly — hasn't been performed in Seattle for 16 years.

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