Bucks County Herald

Paul Taylor Dance Company features Bucks dancers Sean Mahoney and Jamie Rae Walker

LISA JO SAGOLLA



Levittown’s Jamie Rae Walker, below, is pictured with Michelle Fleet, above, in Paul Taylor Dance Company’s “Gossamer Gallants.”

One of America’s foremost modern dance troupes, the 18-member Paul Taylor Dance Company features two Bucks County natives: Bensalem’s Sean Mahoney, who trained locally with Fred Knecht; and Levittown’s Jamie Rae Walker, who began her dance studies in her hometown with Sharon Filone.

As youngsters, both Mahoney and Walker also studied and performed with the Princeton Ballet (now known as American Repertory Ballet). While the pathway from here to the esteemed, New York-based PTDC was long and winding for Walker, for Mahoney it was direct.

Patrick Corbin, then a celebrated member of the PTDC, came to Princeton one day to substitute-teach a class that Mahoney was taking. Afterward, he told Mahoney there was a company audition coming up in April and that he should go up to New York and try out.

The PTDC, which showcases the masterful choreography of Paul Taylor, has always included a roster of male dancers who resemble Taylor as a young dancer – tall, athletic, and graceful in a strong, grounded manner. Mahoney fits the bill, so it’s no wonder Corbin encouraged him to audition.

“I was still in high school, but I went. There were about 300 guys there and the audition was three days long,” said Mahoney. “My parents were going back and forth about whether or not I should continue going and I remember my father saying, ‘Let him ride this out and see what happens.’ And sure enough, at the end of the third day I was offered a job with Taylor 2 (the organization’s second-string company). I graduated from high school on the 20th of June, and on the 21st I was on tour with the company.”

In 2004, Mahoney made his debut with the main PTDC. “Paul doesn’t always pick dancers from Taylor 2 to join the main company,” Mahoney explained. “Sometimes he likes the way the second company looks as a whole and wants to keep that unit strong. Other times he says, ‘Okay, it’s time to move up in the ranks,’ and I was one of the lucky ones who got moved up.”

Walker was dancing with Miami City Ballet when, she said, “I fell in love with the Paul Taylor repertory we were performing.” Fortuitously, Taylor saw her rehearse one of his works and told her he didn’t have any openings in his company at the time, but that he would keep his eye on her. “And he definitely did,” said Walker, who left Miami and moved to New York where she got a job working for choreographer Twyla Tharp on the Broadway-bound musical “Movin’ Out.”

At the same time, she studied at the PTDC’s affiliated school. “He (Taylor) had given me an anonymous scholarship to study there and was always chatting with me on the side, inviting me in to watch rehearsals, and I felt so good about being there. Then one day, when one of the dancers left, he called me on the phone and asked me to join Taylor 2.”

Though it meant leaving “Movin’ Out” just weeks before its scheduled opening, Walker took the job with Taylor. “I didn’t even question it,” she said. About five years later, in 2008, Walker was promoted to the main company.

On Saturday, April 14, the PTDC will appear at the Axelrod Performing Arts Center, a new theatrical venue in Deal Park, N.J. Both Mahoney and Walker will be performing and should be easy to spot: he’s usually the tallest guy on the stage, and she’s the svelte blond.

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