Only two years have passed since San Francisco Performances last brought the Paul Taylor Dance Company to town, but watching Annmaria Mazzini hurl herself fearlessly through “Esplanade” at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts Wednesday, that lapse seemed cruelly long. “Esplanade” is one of those Taylor dances that make you feel more alive. I longed to see it again the moment it ended.

Such has been the common response to “Esplanade” since its creation in 1975. The reasons for its classic status have been well explored: Taylor’s boldly simple movement palate of walks, runs, and falls; his deep structural response to Bach’s Violin Concerto in E minor, and sections of the Bach Double Violin Concerto; his celebrated juxtaposition of light and dark.

The contrasts were as affecting as ever Wednesday, from that opening of harmonious community to that second section when dancers reach but cannot touch, and Laura Halzack is left alone and crying on her knees. With Taylor, though, the relationship of happiness and sadness is never simple. His excellent current company brought out the necessity of both alienation and connection, those force-field-repelled reaches growing into full embraces by dance’s end.

Simple gestures carried tremendous power, from the tender touch of a knee to the cupping of a palm to a cheek. When Michael Trusnovec carried off Julie Tice, the soft concern between them seemed almost impossibly genuine. Michelle Fleet had the skittering-feet solo to a swift violin solo, danced with endearing looseness. And then there was Mazzini, leaping so triumphantly only to glance back and—whap!—slam to her knees. Joy and pain have rarely been so viscerally connected.

The bad news for those planning to catch later dates of the Taylor company’s weeklong run is that “Esplanade” will not repeat on programs B or C; the good news is that the West Coast premiere of “Beloved Renegade” caps program B tonight. Meanwhile Wednesday’s performance also offered two very odd Taylor works.

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If you’d like to go:
Paul Taylor Dance Company: Through Sun. at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts Novellus Theater, 701 Mission St., San Francisco. Tickets: $32-$49. (415) 392-2545, www.performances.org.

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