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Easy as 1. 2. 3. The Joyce hosts innovative and intimate second companies of New York's dance giants.
The spring weather may be holding back its full glory from New Yorkers, but three of the city's preeminent dance companies are putting youth and innovation centerstage with 1.2.3. Festival, a biennial presentation by Taylor 2, ABT II and Ailey II, at the Joyce Theatre.

These troupes are the more intimate touring companies of a trio of dance giants: the Paul Taylor Dance Company, American Ballet Theatre and Alvin Ailey. And while their missions and styles differ, all are offering to New York audiences vibrant works in their respective companies' signature styles, and in a format that's in some ways closer to the companies' roots.

"This is a six-member company modeled after Paul's original troupe from the 1950s," explains Alan Olshan, marketing director for Paul Taylor Dance. Olshan stresses that "we don't think of Taylor 2 as the 'young company.' Paul established Taylor 2 as a company that could go into smaller venues and nontraditional spaces. Now, it is true that half of the 16 dancers in the company spent somewhere between months and a few years in Taylor 2, dancing Paul's repertoire and perfecting his style. But the six dancers in Taylor 2 are representing Paul onstage-it's not as if one day they'll be Taylor dancers. They are Taylor dancers."

The Taylor 2 dancers will do Taylor work either created for small ensembles (the dances "Roses" and "Profiles") or adapted from larger company works ("Runes," the ever-popular "Arden Court"), which are "essentially chamber of the larger dances."

Likewise, ABT II will offer adapted excerpts of such large company pieces as "Raymonda," "Don Quixote" and Balanchine's "Allegro Brillante." But the company will also stage three New York premieres: Aszure Barton's "Barbara," Brian Reeder's "Cake" and Lauri Stallings' "slokas."

"A lot of the dances are created especially for ABT II," notes Rebecca Kim, a press agent with ABT, who points out that Barton, the recipient of a grant to help nurture female choreographers, worked alongside ABT II's 13 dancers, aged 16-20, and even spent three weeks with them in a residency at White Oak, a plantation on the border of Florida and Georgia. "It's a smaller company with a lot more direct contact with new choreographers, new composers and new audiences. There's more room to be creative."

Capitalizing on the creative potential of young dancers, Ailey II will offer a program of entirely new work, and all of it by choreographers who have worked with Ailey's company, and who began their work there with Ailey II.

"The 12 dancers in Ailey II are a mirror image of where these choreographers were about five years ago," says Emily Hawkins, a public relations associate with the company. "Troy Powell, who's now the Associate Artistic Director and resident choreographer with Ailey II, started out as a scholarship student. Mr. Ailey mentored him, and then he came back to work with new emerging artists." The company will debut Powell's "The Eternal Knot."

Another premiere, commissioned by Syracuse University, is "Requiem," choreographed by Chang Yong Sung, who is currently a fellowship student at the Ailey School and an Ailey II apprentice. "To be so young and to choreograph for a company that's nationally recognized is amazing," Hawkins effuses. The remaining premieres include "When Dawn Comes…" by Christopher Huggins and "Fragile" by French choreographer Stephane Boko.

After kicking off the Joyce program on Tues., Apr. 29, with a "triple threat" performance by all three companies, the schedule for 1.2.3 Festival settles into a rotating repertory. Click here for more information about 1.2.3 Festival.