Afterjoining the Paul Taylor Dance Company in 2010, Michael Novak quickly became a critic's favorite for his quiet power onstage. But no one was more surprised than Novak when Taylor tapped him to be his successor last year, three months before the legendary choreographerdied. Dance Magazinerecently caught up with Novak during the company's appearances at the Orchestra of St. Luke's Bach Festival.
Michael Novak, here with Eran Bugge in Paul Taylor's Promethean Fire, was named artistic director designate by Taylor in May. Photo by Paul B. Goode, Courtesy PTAMD
A quiet power has marked Michael Novak's dancing since he joined the Paul Taylor Dance Company in 2010. Long a critics' favorite, he has gracefully shared the spotlight with higher-profile performers, contributing steady excellence to works from Gossamer Gallants to the iconic Esplanade. But no one was more surprised than Novak when Taylor tapped him to be artistic director designate. Novak, 35, will oversee every component of the Paul Taylor enterprise, from the Paul Taylor American Modern Dance initiative to the school. But most critically, he will direct the Paul Taylor Dance Company, which may be his toughest role yet—one he has already begun training for.
We spoke to Novak earlier this summer, before the announcement of Novak's new role turned out to be portentous: Taylor passed away this week.
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.
"I look forward to working with him to continue my vision," Paul Taylor says of his successor, Michael Novak. Photos by Bill Wadman, Courtesy PTAMD; Jayme Thornton
It's been a long time coming. Paul Taylor, who at 87 is still actively making dances, has named the person who will succeed him at the head of the various organizations that bear his name: Paul Taylor Dance Company member Michael Novak.
The announcement has come with no small amount of surprise, as longtime PTDC dancer Michael Trusnovec has long been considered the heir apparent. But, as was announced today, Taylor has appointed 35-year-old Novak as artistic director designate, effective July 1. As Taylor told The New York Times, "I thought he was just next in line. I've watched him for some time. He pays attention, and I know that he's listening."