Lauren Lovette was nervous and uncertain of what to expect when she arrived for her first day to work on a new dance for the Paul Taylor Dance Company. She had begun choreographing while still busy performing as a New York City Ballet principal dancer and had made some well-received works for her home company. They caught the eye of Michael Novak, PTDC’s artistic director, who was responsible for commissioning new dances for his troupe to perform alongside Paul Taylor’s extensive and imposing body of work.
The NYCB studio was familiar territory for Lovette – working with dancers with whom she shared a technique and frame of reference. But now she was invited to work with a leading modern dance troupe known for robust, invigorating attack.
“I was so nervous to work with modern dancers for the first time. I didn’t know what that would be like. How to communicate my ideas in a different vocabulary. I didn’t want to waste anyone’s time, but I also wanted to explore,” Lovette recalled recently.
It was also bad timing – early 2020. After a couple of rehearsals to explore movement possibilities with the Taylor dancers – using her days off from NYCB’s full schedule – the Covid pandemic shut down the performing arts. When they began their uncertain return to life, Lovette returned to the Taylor studio but shifted focus to a different work. Titled Pentimento and set to an intriguing score by Alberto Ginastera, it premiered in March 2022 and persuaded Novak that she was an ideal fit for his Company. He named her its resident choreographer.
Fast forward to today, and Lovette is happily and comfortably ensconced as a regular presence with the Taylor Company. During their two-week season at the David H. Koch Theater, they will perform the third and fourth dances she has choreographed for them, all created within the past two years.
“I love it there. It’s such a home,” she says of the Taylor studio. Working there has been my first experience working with a group of dancers repeatedly,” she says. “You have a commission; you come in and discover things about people and do your best. You find a common ground.”
Working with Taylor dancers on an ongoing basis, she notes, “I really get to know them. I absolutely love that process – pulling back the layers. I know them so well. The same dancers will reveal themselves differently later on in the process. There’s no more anxiety when I come into the space.”
For the company’s current generation of dancers, the first not to have choreography made on them by Paul Taylor (1930 – 2018), Lovette provides that irreplaceable experience of performing works created on them.
The Company’s dancers share her enthusiasm. “What’s amazing with Lauren is the ability to be in back-to-back creative processes,” observes Alex Clayton, who joined the company in 2017. “You’re able to pour more into it, understand each other’s movement qualities, and are able to access different things with each experience; she is able to look at us differently. So, as her pieces continue to evolve, it looks like we’re deepening our connection to one another.”
“I think the trajectory of her work has been so apparent,” says Jessica Ferretti, a Taylor dancer since 2021. “Like any relationship, we get to know each other with more time together. We can read each other’s minds now, in a way. She loves our individuality and makes sure that everyone is highlighted in their own special way.”
Both of Lovette’s premieres are set to adventurous contemporary musical scores. Dreamachine, set to Michael Daugherty’s expansive score of the same title, is the dance she intended to make when she first entered the Taylor studio in 2020. “It’s a dance that belongs with this Company,” Lovette says. “I can’t see it anywhere else. It’s a piece meant for Taylor dancers. It’s funky, and it’s different. It encapsulates everything I love about them.”
Lovette was captivated by Daugherty’s four-movement score, a percussion concerto – and inspired by his eloquent program note, which describes his score as “a tribute to the imagination of inventors who dream about new machines, both real and surreal. The music is inspired by images that connect man and machine in surprising ways.”
Contact by Kevin Puts – the score for Echo, Lovette’s newest work, for all the Company’s men – was brought to Novak’s attention by the director of the Orchestra of St. Luke’s, which plays for the Taylor season and forged a strong bond with the Company. Once he heard it, Novak sensed it would appeal to Lovette. She was enthusiastic: “The music has sensitivity and vulnerability in it; there’s also strength, power. There’s a lot of order and precision in it.” Time For Three, the unique string trio for whom Puts composed the score, will be performing it with OSL.
These two new works will amply demonstrate how mutually inspiring and productive Lovette’s adventure with PTDC has been since that first nervous day. Her ongoing connection with the Company, she reflects, “has definitely expanded me as a choreographer. It challenges me all the time, but even on my most challenging day, I’ve never had a moment when there’s any other place I’d rather be.”