Paul Taylor offers a grande jeté, coming and going 

For those of us who have delighted in the Paul Taylor Dance Company for more decades than one would like to count, the upcoming annual visit to Yerba Buena Center will be doubly important.

About the numbers: improbably enough, Taylor is 76, the company will turn 53 in May; Ruth Felt’s San Francisco Performances (and the San Francisco Ballet) hosted PTDC for its 1990 Opera House debut, and then S.F. Performances presented the company eight more times, this year being the ninth. Since 2003, it’s been an annual affair.

A veritable extension (but in no way imitation) of George Balanchine’s neoclassical concatenation of substantial (often commissioned) music, 19th-century elegance and contemporary freedom of movement, Paul Taylor’s varied, often surprising, always entertaining choreography (in the manner of Prospero’s "something rich and strange") once was just one among many touring attractions.

San Francisco’s choices once included — in the Opera House and elsewhere, the Curran, for example — the Joffrey Ballet, Dance Theater of Harlem, American Ballet Theater ... and more. One by one, they fell away, victims to the high-cost, low-income paradigm of touring. Paul Taylor, the world’s most-traveled company, is still with us, thank goodness.

What, then, is the significance of the 2007 tour, unfolding at Yerba Buena between March 27 and April 1? The good news is that Paul Taylor once again will bring a good mix of the company’s classic showpieces — "Piazzolla Caldera" (to Piazzola’s tangos), "Promethean Fire" (with J.S. Bach’s music) and "Polaris" (Donald York) — some rarely performed works, and, of special interest, West Coast premieres of new works by Taylor.

But first, the not-so-good-news. Next year will mark a hiatus in the annual tours, and then beginning in 2009, we can expect PTDC every other year.

So let the good times roll while they may, filled to the brim with this year’s three programs, paying special attention to the premieres: a reduced version of "Troilus and Cressida" and "Lines of Loss."

For the former, think Trojan wars to Ponchielli’s music, including "The Dance of the Hours" (aka "Hello father, hello mother..."), with the small giant, the indestructible Lisa Viola having her way with a warrior or two

"Lines of Loss" is a serious work, eight pieces of lamentation, set to music that spans centuries — from Guillaume de Machaut to Pärt and Schnittke — recorded by San Francisco’s Kronos Quartet. Properly placed, "Lines of Loss" should be the last work on the last program, to serve as a temporary goodbye.

For information about the Paul Taylor Dance Company performances, call (415) 398-6449 or visit wwwperformances.org.

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A daily newspaper covering San Francisco, San Mateo County and serving Alameda, Marin and Santa Clara counties.
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