The American Dance Festival completed a winning 2021 Summer run with the world-renowned Paul Taylor Dance Company under the direction of Michael Novak, Artistic Director. As has been the case throughout the festival, ADF executive director Jodee Nimerichter and performance and film director for the North Carolina Museum of Art, Moses T Alexander Greene, welcomed the full house of ADF enthusiasts. Nimerichter brought much deserved attention to the hard work of the ADF staff and volunteers that made this year so successful. Greene pumped up the crowd, declaring that he had the “best job in the world” and noted once again that NCMA was bringing something new to the iconic museum by “making dance happen outside.” Thanks were given to Governor Roy Cooper and NCMA director Valerie Hillings, who both had front row seats.

Paul Taylor (1930-2018) is arguably one of America’s most accomplished contemporary artists with an exceptional legacy of work, having founded his company 67 years ago. The program notes appropriately stated that “Taylor uniquely bridged the legendary founders of modern dance and the makers of the 21st century with whom he worked.” His connection to ADF began in 1953 as a student, but continued throughout his career with his company performing more seasons than not at the summer festival over the years.

Taylor’s 1993 work, A Field of Grass, with music by Harry Nillsen, took us back to the 1960s hippie culture through the eyes of the main character, danced by Alex Clayton, who entered the stage dressed in the garb of the day, and a “joint” in hand throughout his solo meanderings. Costumed in bell-bottom jeans and crop tops, the cultish flowerchildren danced with exuberance to “Rainmaker.” A joyful, youth-filled duet to “I Guess the Lord Must be in New York City” was followed by a cute and quirky interpretation of “Here Comes the Daylight” with dancers donning shades – it must have been a bad trip! Taylor incorporates popular moves of the day like the “monkey” and the “mash potato” to delight of viewers. The rocked out, wildly energetic “Spaceman” featured an amazing performance by Christina Lynch Markham. “The Puppy Song” ended the set with its lyric “dreams are nothing more than a wish, and a wish is just a dream you wish to come true” that pretty much summed up the mood of the time, as did the wonderful performances of the entire group. This was met with equally enthusiastic applause by the ADF audience.

Duet (1964), danced by Michael Appuzzo and Kristin Drauker, is a sweet, lyrical work. Both dancers were expressive and moving in their ability to make us feel their undying love for one another. Unfortunately, the program notes do not give credit to which work by Franz Joseph Haydn this piece is set.

Esplanade (1975) with the music of Bach’s Violin Concerto in E, and the Largo and Allegro movements from his Double Concerto for Two Violins in D minor, was danced by an octet. Costumes in varying gradations of 70s orange mirrored the joyful energy of the performers. The high-spirited action in this long work contained every day movement like running and brisk walking. The Largo movement of the “Bach Double” was courtly and elegant. The Allegro was a tour-de-force, danced by all with incredible precision and beauty. Just a brilliant piece all the way ’round!

Novak concluded the program by thanking ADF and NCMA for their innovation in creating safe ways for us to witness art again. Novak gave us homework! “Please.Go.See.Art! All of it!” Noting the burden that has been placed on the arts world, Novak stated that it’s up to us now to support any art in any way we can, either through ticket sales or memberships, and to “bring your friends along too!”

Kudos to ADF, NCMA, and all of the performing groups that made this year’s festival so memorable for so many. Keep an eye on our calendar for upcoming ADF events.