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Modern Dance Legend Paul Taylor Has Died

Paul Taylor in 2014. Photo by Jayme Thornton

Yesterday, modern dance giant Paul Taylor passed away. He had turned 88 at the end of July.

Considered the last of the 20th-century modern dance titans, Taylor celebrated the 60th anniversary of his company in 2014. A prolific dancemaker, he continued to make new works into his final year, the last of which premiered during the company's annual Lincoln Center season in March—his 147th. Aureole, Cloven Kingdom and Promethean Fire are among his iconic works, though perhaps none is so beloved as his 1975 masterpiece Esplanade. During his performing career, Taylor danced roles created for him by Martha Graham, Merce Cunningham and George Balanchine, as well as in his own work.


Paul Taylor choreographing To Make Crops Grow on Parisa Khobdeh. Photo by Whitney Browne, Courtesy PTDC

The news comes just months after the surprise announcement, mid-May, that Taylor had named Michael Novak artistic director designate. Novak, a 35-year-old member of Paul Taylor Dance Company, was expected to continue performing while preparing to take the reins of the multi-faceted Taylor enterprise, from the school to the company itself. It seems that Novak will be stepping into the role sooner than may have been expected.

Prior to naming Novak his successor, Taylor had begun to prepare his company for the future with the launch of the Paul Taylor American Modern Dance Initiative in 2014. The PTAMD season includes not just Taylor's works, but also repertory pieces from other iconic modern choreographers (such as Graham, Cunningham and Trisha Brown) and new creations from contemporary choreographers (Doug Varone and Bryan Arias in the most recent iteration).

Taylor's distinctive choreographic voice has been a major force shaping American dance for decades. His legacy will endure, but Mr. Taylor will be missed.

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