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Published: Thursday, 11/8/2012 - Updated: 1 year ago

Valentine Theatre set to go 'Bam' in the night

BY SALLY VALLONGO
SPECIAL TO THE BLADE

Hank Bamberger and five of his best dance buddies -- they comprise Paul Taylor 2 -- are ready to leap into Toledo's hearts at the Valentine Theatre during their 8 p.m. Friday concert.

For Bamberger, known as Bam around the Paul Taylor 2 studios, and company, it will be a local debut.

For Toledoans it will offer a chance to witness the work of modern dance legend Paul Taylor without traveling to a major dance market.

He will not be alone, although he is still working with his main company in New York City.

"When we come to town we are representing Paul Taylor," Bamberger said in a phone interview. The program will include "Esplanade," the signature 1975 work by Taylor, as well as excerpts from two other major dances.

Even though Taylor created his originals for the main company of 16, the young dancer explained, many works have been restaged for company 2, which was started in 1993.

"The wonderful thing about Taylor 2 is that we are able to go out and do a lot of community outreach and fund-raising," said Bamberger, who was given his nickname by Taylor himself shortly after being hired.

"We get the word of Paul Taylor out there. We do a lot of support. We perform in children's homes and retirement communities."

Taylor, 82, a former college swimmer, began his star-studded dance career in 1954, when "modern" was the winning adjective for all things artistic, from music to theater to visual arts.

Taylor has received every possible top award, from the Kennedy Center Honors, a MacArthur Fellowship, Emmys, and the National Medal of Arts, among others.

Then and now he relishes the role of "bad boy" for his overtly physical style of dancing and for the clear social commentary he expresses through his lively and abstract choreography.

"He just finished his 138th piece," Bamberger said.

Taylor's MO calls for simple stage sets, colorful, body-hugging costumes, dramatic lighting and classical musical. "Esplanade," which will fill the second half of the Toledo performance, is set to sections of two J.S. Bach violin concertos.

The show will open with "Airs," first performed in 1978.

Bamberger elaborated: "The costumes are like a flow of aqua. The beginning's almost like a prayer and it builds and builds with lots of duets. There are a lot of balletic elements."

The second work of the first half will be the mystical "Runes," noted the dancer.

"We'll be wearing wolf hats with patches of fur. There are elements of spell casting."

Taylor's career was well under way when Bamberger was born in 1987 in Richmond, Va. From early on he was all about physical activity.

"I played soccer, T-ball, basketball, and I was on the swim team. I was a rambunctious kid. Then, I found musical theater," he said.

Supportive parents found him a vocal trainer. "He told me I had to become a triple threat, which meant I had to do dance plus singing and acting. I started taking ballet and really liking it. Then came jazz and hip-hop. At age 8, I found modern dance."

By high school, Bamberger was an advanced performer teaching beginners, a way to pay for studies and reinforce his own music, song, and dance training.

He continued studies at Marymount Manhattan College where he earned a bachelor of fine arts degree in dance in 2009. Then he did what countless talented, highly trained dancers do: went to work for a cruise line.

Plus, he did rounds of auditions, including for Paul Taylor, who attends all tryouts. "Bam" joined the traveling company in 2010.

"Technically, I didn't know the style of Taylor. It's so physical. It embodies the use of the back, the trunk, and the torso," Bamberger explained. "The arms move, not arbitrarily, but in accordance with the back.

"It felt so natural. I was on the swim team and there was a connection between that movement. It absolutely is more fluid," he added. "It's not stop and go. Taylor teaches continuity of movement."

A typical day begins with what dancers call class, really a very tough workout to beautiful music. "I do take class quite religiously. It helps us to take class with members and alums," said Bamberger, noting that rehearsals of the main company and his ensemble are conducted separately.

Other Taylor 2 dancers are Christina Lynch Markham, Alana Allende, Manuel Sanchez, Lee Duveneck, and Rei Akazawa. The young company tours states from coast to coast and recently spent several weeks performing in India.

Paul Taylor Dance will give a free master class Friday from noon to 1:30 p.m. in the Valentine Theatre's fifth floor rehearsal room. Tickets for Paul Taylor 2 are $26-$42 at valentinetheatre.org or 419-242-2787.

Contact Sally Vallongo at: svallongo@theblade.com.



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