- The Latest
- Breaking Stereotypes
- Rant & Rave
- Dance As Activism
- Dancers Trending
- Viral Videos
- The Dancer's Toolkit
- Health & Body
- Dance Training
- Career Advice
- Style & Beauty
- Dance Auditions
- Guides & Resources
- Performance Calendar
- College Guide
- Dance Magazine Awards
- Meet The Editors
- Contact Us
- Advertise/Media Kit
- Buy A Single Issue
- Give A Gift Subscription
What Paul Taylor Has Taught Me
I was 22, fresh out of school. Wet behind the ears, I was using a light boom backstage as a warm-up barre before my debut performance with the Paul Taylor Dance Company. I noticed Paul Taylor walking toward me, wagging his index finger like a disciplining father, and I shrank with fear.
"Don't touch the booms. Someone has worked very hard to focus those lights," he admonished. And just before he turned to go, he paused and added, "And listen to your seniors." But he wasn't done. As he strode away, he turned back and said, "Oh, and always say thank you to the crew."
What struck me about Paul's notes—and what has stayed with me ever since—is what was at the heart of those three directives: respect, gratitude and the importance of family. They are values that are embedded in his dances and in his company.
Today, even in the most labyrinthine theaters, I will never touch a stage boom. Paul's simply stated lesson taught me about respect, about being a guest in someone's "house." He made me aware of the hours spent by the team who hang and focus the lights to illuminate our dancing. And that, in turn, gave me respect for the wardrobe team who clean and steam our costumes before every show, and for the crew who prepare the stage before we arrive and work late into the night long after we are gone.
"Today, even in the most labyrinthine theaters, I will never touch a stage boom." Photo by Rachel Papo
Once, after a show at the majestic Fox Theatre in St. Louis, I approached a crew member whose eyelids were heavy with exhaustion. I extended my hand, shook his and said, "Thank you." His eyes widened with a look of shock and he said, "Only two artists have ever thanked me before—Robin Williams and Reba McEntire." Mouth agape, I said, "Clearly, I don't mind being in their company!"
Since then, I make sure to thank the crew of every theater we visit. It's a heartfelt, genuine thank-you for all the work that goes into making Paul's dances look and feel their best.
But, of course, I also owe gratitude to the person who taught me to be grateful. A year ago, at a rehearsal of Esplanade, I sensed an abandon and risk in my dancing I had never experienced before. I walked over to Paul and said, "Boss, thank you for making such an amazing dance. I love dancing your dances," and kissed him on the cheek. He replied, "Thank you for dancing them so well."
My eyes welled up, and I felt the power of gratitude, both the giving and the receiving.
In the nearly 15 years since I joined the company, I have learned that being a part of the Taylor family is about listening not only to Paul's words but also listening to his dances. Each one is built on an idea that informs the movement.
This year, I inherited Kate Johnson's role in Musical Offering, which was inspired by wooden sculptures from New Guinea. She begins alone onstage, as stoic as stone, but breaks free from her lifeless form. As the rest of the cast carve their way onstage, she infuses life into the group. The dance has a heartbreaking purity where I feel resistance, pain, anguish and eventually acceptance. The power of human connection is real with my partner, Michael Trusnovec, and my friends, where I feel the transformation into peace. As with many of Paul's dances, he is speaking of the inevitability of death.
Paul doesn't always say what he wants, but sometimes he shows you. In my very first studio rehearsal, he stopped the music less than two minutes into Offenbach Overtures, a dance that jests at formal etiquette. I was mortified: I knew that I had done something wrong, but what? Paul rose from his chair and walked toward me. With his cigarette-ash dusted fingers, he sculpted my arm into an exacting and explicit curve. In that moment, I learned that Paul is very particular about arms, hands and gestures—and the pause before and after a shape.
As I inherit roles that are new to me, I follow Paul's wisdom about listening to my seniors. I seek out the powerful men and women who have danced those parts before me. Through our conversations and rehearsals, I listen for what Paul's intentions were when he made the dance and how the dance has evolved over the decades since.
As we reconstruct Musical Offering, Kate Johnson has been generous in coaching me in this dance that depicts life and death as an eternal loop. Paul could also have been thinking here of the eternal loop of a dance company, where senior dancers are replaced by new dancers, and the dances become the sum of all who have danced them.
I make these roles my own, but I stand upon the shoulders of those dancers who have given life to Paul's artistry before me. The more experience I gain, the more depth I find in the smallest of details in dancing for Paul. I hope that future generations of Taylor dancers can take something from my contributions—and, in turn, make each role their own.
Today as I create with Paul, I am still discovering the things I don't yet know. The creative conversation feels both familiar and totally foreign because I don't know what I don't know. Sometimes it's as simple as understanding what he wants and offering him a movement that expresses that idea, or offering him a movement that he rejects—it's through this trial and error that we carve away until we find an idea to build upon. The creative process is a dance unto itself; it's a dance in discovery.
On and off the stage, I have learned to listen to Paul with my whole being, as if I have eyes and ears all over my body. I listen with the attentiveness of that beginner, compounded now with my experience dancing his deeply moving works. And I have come to understand that those lessons about respect, gratitude and family that Paul was teaching me at our first backstage encounter are embedded in all his choreography.
It can be hard to focus when Alice Sheppard dances.
Her recent sold-out run of DESCENT at New York Live Arts, for instance, offered a constellation of stimulation. Onstage was a large architectural ramp with an assortment of peaks and planes. There was an intricate lighting and projection design. There was a musical score that unfolded like an epic poem. There was a live score too: the sounds of Sheppard and fellow dancer Laurel Lawson's bodies interacting with the surfaces beneath them.
And there were wheelchairs. But if you think the wheelchairs are the center of this work, you're missing something vital about what Sheppard creates.
So far, the fervor to create diversity in ballet has primarily focused on dancers. Less attention has been paid to the work that they'll encounter once they arrive.
Yet the cultivation of ballet choreographers of color (specifically black choreographers) through traditional pathways of choreographic training grounds remains virtually impossible. No matter how you slice it, we end up at the basic issues that plague the pipeline to the stage: access and privilege.
"I'm sorry, but I just can't possibly give you the amount of money you're asking for."
My heart sinks at my director's final response to my salary proposal. She insists it's not me or my work, there is just no money in the budget. My disappointment grows when handed the calendar for Grand Rapids Ballet's next season with five fewer weeks of work.
"It just...always looks better in my head."
While that might not be something any of us would want to hear from a choreographer, it's a brilliant introduction to "Off Kilter" and the odd, insecure character at its center, Milton Frank. The ballet mockumentary (think "The Office" or "Parks and Recreation," but with pointe shoes) follows Frank (dancer-turned-filmmaker Alejandro Alvarez Cadilla) as he comes back to the studio to try his hand at choreographing for the first time since a plagiarism scandal derailed his fledgling career back in the '90s.
We've been pretty excited about the series for a while, and now the wait is finally over. The first episode of the show, "The Denial," went live earlier today, and it's every bit as awkward, hilarious and relatable as we hoped.
Christopher Wheeldon is going to be giving Michael Jackson some new moves: The Royal Ballet artistic associate is bringing the King of Pop to Broadway.
The unlikely pairing was announced today by Jackson's estate. Wheeldon will serve as both director and choreographer for the new musical inspired by Michael Jackson's life, which is aiming for a 2020 Broadway opening. This will be Wheeldon's second time directing and choreographing, following 2015's Tony Award-winning An American in Paris.
Wheeldon is a surprising choice, to say the least. There are many top choreographers who worked with Jackson directly, like Wade Robson and Brian Friedman, who could have been tapped for the project. Or the production could have even hired someone who actually choreographed on Jackson when he was alive, like Buddha Stretch.
What is the right flooring system for us?
So many choices, companies, claims, endorsements, and recommendations to consider. The more you look, the more confusing it gets. Here is what you need to do. Here is what you need to know to get the flooring system suited to your needs.
Broadway musicals have been on my mind for more than half a century. I discovered them in grade school, not in a theater but electronically. On the radio, every weeknight an otherwise boring local station would play a cast album in its entirety; on television, periodically Ed Sullivan's Sunday night variety show would feature an excerpt from the latest hit—numbers from Bye Bye Birdie, West Side Story, Camelot, Flower Drum Song.
But theater lives in the here and now, and I was in middle school when I attended my first Broadway musical, Gypsy—based, of all things, on the early life of the famed burlesque queen Gypsy Rose Lee. I didn't know who Jerome Robbins was, but I recognized genius when I saw it—kids morphing into adults as a dance number progresses, hilarious stripping routines, a pas de deux giving concrete shape to the romantic yearnings of an ugly duckling. It proved the birth of a lifelong habit, indulged for the last 18 years in the pages of this magazine. But all long runs eventually end, and it's time to say good-bye to the "On Broadway" column. It's not the last of our Broadway coverage—there's too much great work being created and performed, and you can count on hearing from me in print and online.
Let's start with the obvious: Over the weekend, Beyoncé and Jay-Z released a joint album, Everything Is Love. Bey and Jay also dropped a video for the album's lead track, which they filmed inside the actual Louvre museum in Paris (as one does, when one is a member of the Carter family). And the vid features not only thought-provoking commentary on the Western art tradition, but also some really incredible dancing.
So, who choreographed this epic? And who are the dancers bringing it to life in those already-iconic bodystockings?
Travis Wall draws inspiration from dancers Tate McCrae, Timmy Blankenship and more.
One often-overlooked relationship that exists in dance is the relationship between choreographer and muse. Recently two-time Emmy Award Winner Travis Wall opened up about his experience working with dancers he considers to be his muses.
"My muses in choreography have evolved over the years," says Wall. "When I'm creating on Shaping Sound, our company members, my friends, are my muses. But at this current stage of my career, I'm definitely inspired by new, fresh talent."
Wall adds, "I'm so inspired by this new generation of dancers. Their teachers have done such incredible jobs, and I've seen these kids grown up. For many of them, I've had a hand in their exposure to choreography."
This week, New York City's Joyce Theater presents two companies addressing LGBTQ+ issues.
When most people think of dance students, they imagine lithe children and teenagers waltzing around classrooms with their legs lifted to their ears. It doesn't often cross our minds that dance training can involve an older woman trying to build strength in her body to ward off balance issues, or a middle-aged man who didn't have the confidence to take a dance class as a boy for fear of bullying.
Anybody can begin to learn dance at any age. But it takes a particular type of teacher to share our art form with dancers who have few prospects beyond fun and fitness a few nights a week.
New York City–based dancers know Gibney. It's a performance venue, a dance company, a rehearsal space, an internship possibility—a Rubik's Cube of resources bundled into two sites at 280 and 890 Broadway. And in March of this year, Gibney (having officially dropped "Dance" from its name) announced a major expansion of its space and programming; it now operates a total of 52,000 square feet, 23 studios and five performance spaces across the two locations.
Six of those studios and one performance space are brand-new at the 280 Broadway location, along with several programs. EMERGE will commission new works by emerging choreographic voices for the resident Gibney Dance Company each year; Making Space+ is an extension of Gibney's Making Space commissioning and presenting program, focused on early-career artists. For the next three years, the Joyce Theater Foundation's artist residency programs will be run out of one of the new Gibney studios, helping to fill the gap left by the closing of the Joyce's DANY Studios in 2016.
Dancers crossing over into the fitness realm may be increasingly popular, but it was never part of French-born Julie Granger's plan. Though Granger grew up a serious ballet student, taking yoga classes on the side eventually led to a whole new career. Creating her own rules along the way, Granger shares how combining the skills she learned in ballet with certifications in yoga, barre and personal training allowed her to become her own boss (and a rising fitness influencer).