Paul Taylor cultivated many brilliant dancers during his 60-plus-year career, but seldom have any commanded such a place of authority and artistry as Michael Trusnovec. He models what it takes to become a great Taylor dancer: weight of movement, thorough grasp of style, deep concentration, steadfast partnering, complete dedication to the choreography and a nuanced response to the music.
Trusnovec can simultaneously make choreography sexy and enlightened, and he can do it within one phrase of movement. Refusing to be pigeonholed, he has excelled in roles as diverse as the tormented and tormenting preacher in Speaking in Tongues; the lyrical central figure—one of Taylor's own sacred roles—in Aureole; the dogged detective in Le Sacre du Printemps (The Rehearsal); and the corporate devil in Banquet of Vultures.
Usually, it takes new recruits a few seasons to make their mark at the Paul Taylor Dance Company. But Taylor wasted no time in honing in on the talents of Alex Clayton. Only a few months after Clayton joined in June 2017, Taylor created an exciting solo for him in his new Concertiana, filled with explosive leaps and quick footwork. Clayton was also featured in new works by Doug Varone and Bryan Arias. At 5' 6" he may be compact, but onstage he fills the space with a thrilling sense of attack.
The news of Paul Taylor's death two weeks ago at the age of 88 has sparked innumerable tributes to the choreographer. We were inspired to delve into Dance Magazine's extensive photo archives to see what images of the late modern dance titan were hiding there. We present a baker's dozen of our favorites from over the years.
A person's walk is like a fingerprint, according to four Paul Taylor dancers who are stepping on without their beloved choreographer. Taylor died August 29, passing the legacy of Paul Taylor American Modern Dance to Michael Novak, the second artistic director in the company's history.
"Human movement never lies," says Novak, who sometimes slipped into present tense when describing his mentor. "For auditions, Paul makes dancers walk across the floor in rhythm. The first time I auditioned, I didn't get the job. I was terrified, but now that I'm on the other side of the audition process, 'the walk' is telling."
"When you're doing the walk, it's nerve-racking and hard to know the value," explains Eran Bugge, who recently celebrated her 13th anniversary with the company. "Now I know that it's totally revealing. You can see a person's control to be human and dancerly at the same time. Sometimes you can see weird coordinations, but Paul liked that."
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New York, NY (September 2018) – Misty Copeland will open the 61st annual Dance Magazine Awards. The evening will honor Ronald K. Brown, Lourdes Lopez (presented by Darren Walker), Crystal Pite, and Michael Trusnovec (presented by Patrick Corbin). A special Leadership Award will be presented to Nigel Redden. Since 1954 the Dance Magazine Awards have recognized outstanding men and women whose contributions have left a lasting impact on dance. This year's Awards will take place on Monday, December 3, 2018 at The Ailey Citigroup Theater at 7:30 pm. Tickets start at $50 and can be purchased by emailing email@example.com.
A new award, The Harkness Promise Award, will shine a light on two emerging young artists for the promise of their artistic work. The inaugural awardees are Raja Feather Kelly and Ephrat "Bounce" Asherie. The Harkness Foundation For Dance received proceeds from last year's Dance Magazine Awards for this grant. The award showcases innovative thinking and how to be an effective artist-citizen who positively impacts dance and the broader community through performance, education, organization and activism. Proceeds from this year's Dance Magazine Awards will be applied to next year's Harkness Promise Awards.
"All of us at Dance Magazine are excited to partner with The Harkness Foundation For Dance for a second year and to benefit these two deserving artists. This year's Dance Magazine Awards has once again chosen a stellar group of honorees and we are thrilled to have Misty Copeland join us. We are confident that the 61st Dance Magazine Awards will be our best yet." – Frederic Seegal, CEO/Chairman Dance Media
For 17 years, James Samson has been the model Paul Taylor dancer. There is something fundamentally decent about his stage persona. He's a tall dancer—six feet—but never imposes himself. He's muscular, but gentle. And when he moves, it is his humanity that shines through, even more than his technique.
But all dancing careers come to an end, and James Samson's is no exception; now 43, he'll be retiring in August, after a final performance at the Teatro Romano in Verona, where he'll be dancing in Cloven Kingdom, Piazzolla Caldera and Promethean Fire.
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."
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Willkommen to the night of your dreams: First you're transfixed by a performance at Lincoln Center's opulent Koch Theater. Then you're sipping wine with the ridiculously famous Alan Cumming. Later, he whisks you away to his exclusive East Village club, where you party late into the night.
While these scenarios sound like the makings of a wild dream, they're very real. This Thursday, March 15, you and up to 19 others could join Cumming for the ultimate night out, framed around Paul Taylor American Modern Dance's spring season. (Yes, your host is actually the Tony, Olivier and Emmy award-winning performer, Alan Cumming, who starred in a little show called Cabaret. Perhaps you've heard of it?)
One of New York City Ballet's most adventurous ballerinas will be a special guest of Paul Taylor American Modern Dance for its annual season at the Koch Theater. Sara Mearns is performing solos created by early modern dance icon Isadora Duncan as staged by Lori Belilove. Also on the menu: Paul Taylor Dance Company members in 13 classic Taylor works and world premieres from Doug Varone, Bryan Arias and Mr. Taylor himself (his 147th!), plus the resurgent Trisha Brown Dance Company in her iconic Set and Reset. March 7–25. ptamd.org.
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.
When Paul Taylor created Beloved Renegade on Laura Halzack in 2008, he gave unequivocal instructions. She was the figure, sometimes referred to as the angel of death, who circles dancer Michael Trusnovec in a compassionate, yet emphatic way.
"He choreographed every single step for me," she says. "He showed it to me—do this développé, reach here, turn here, a very specific idea," she says. His guidance was that she be cool and sweet. Then, she says, "he just let me become her. That's where I really earned Paul's trust."
Believe it or not, dance fashion has not always been a thing. Rehearsal wear used to consist of a leotard, tights and legwarmers—that's it. But today, dancewear has exploded with the rise of athleisure, and rehearsals have become a place where dancers can show their individual style. Almost anything goes, from fun socks to running pants to beanies. Here's a look at how three iconic companies have evolved their rehearsal fashion over the years.
In her many years of shooting top dancers and choreographers, photographer Rose Eichenbaum has not only captured their movement, but collected their stories and the guidance they have to offer other artists.
Now, Eichenbaum is releasing a coffee table book, Inside the Dancer's Art, filled with these artists' words of wisdom alongside their portraits. Here are a few of our favorites.
The minutes after curtain comes down can be the trickiest of a dancer's day: Despite your adrenaline high and the impulse to celebrate the night's achievements, you need to jumpstart your body's recovery so that you can take the stage again the very next day.
Smart dancers like Parisa Khobdeh follow a carefully calibrated routine during busy performance weeks, whether they're at home or on the road. The 14-year Paul Taylor Dance Company veteran shares her tried-and-true post-show rituals.
Photo by Francisco Graciano, via Instagram
Caribou in Carolina
Helen Simoneau Danse. Photo by Charles Zovko, courtesy In The Lights PR.
NC tour A Canadian who lives in North Carolina, choreographer-on-the-rise Helen Simoneau is using her newest evening-length work, Caribou, to take a closer look at heritage, assimilation and identity. She studies these ideas through the iconic caribou—an enormously antlered animal beloved by our friends to the north. It seems like a good match: Simoneau’s work is both athletic and smooth, much like those graceful beasts. March 3–5, Hanesbrands Theatre, Winston-Salem; March 6, Charlotte Ballet; March 19, Charlotte Dance Festival. helensimoneau.com.
Passing the Torch
Elisa Monte Dance turns 35 this year. Photo by Darial Sneed, courtesy In the Lights PR.
New York City and Lake Placid, NY What happens to a dance company’s identity when its sole choreographer steps down? Elisa Monte Dance’s 35th anniversary at City College Center for the Arts, March 2–5, will be both a tribute to Elisa Monte’s leadership and a preview of what’s to come. She’ll premiere one final work before handing the reins at season’s end to current associate artistic director and former EMD dancer Tiffany Rea-Fisher, who has also created a piece for the program. Monte’s Pangaea studies issues that impact the planet; Rea-Fisher’s Newton’s Cradle examines the known and unknown consequences of one’s actions. EMD will also take select works to Lake Placid Center for the Arts for a residency, March 14–18, and a performance on the 18th.
Taylor’s iconic Esplanade. Photo by Paul B. Goode, Courtesy PTAMD
Paul Taylor’s American Gumbo
New York City Going backward and forward at the same time, Paul Taylor’s American Modern Dance promises to educate as well as to entertain. Taylor’s dancers will perform Martha Graham’s Diversion of Angels (which Taylor himself performed during his time with the Graham company), and Dayton Contemporary Dance Company will dance Donald McKayle’s poignant classic Rainbow ’Round My Shoulder. Taylor has commissioned new works by postmodernists Doug Elkins and Larry Keigwin. And, of course, the season will also include a hefty dose of 16 dances by Taylor himself. March 16–April 3, David H. Koch Theater at Lincoln Center. davidhkochtheater.com.
Arian Molina Soca and Mayara Pineiro in Don Quixote. Photo by Alexander Iziliaev, courtesy PAB.
A Taste of Spain
Philadelphia Now into his second year as artistic director of Pennsylvania Ballet, Angel Corella is mounting a Don Quixote that reminds him of home—Spain, that is. He wants to capture the feeling of the lively town squares he knew as a child. The costume and set designs aim for authentic Spanish flavor, and the choreography includes elements of flamenco. Olé! March 3–13, Academy of Music. paballet.org.
Morgan in Mobile Ballet’s Swan Lake. Photo by Jeff Kennedy, Courtesy Morgan.
A Ballerina Bounces Back
Washington, DC Since leaving New York City Ballet in 2012, Kathryn Morgan has become an internet force—her loyal followers count on her upbeat and honest advice about navigating the bunhead life. So, naturally, when it was time to announce her two-night performance at the Kennedy Center, she took to YouTube. Presented by Ballet in the City and sponsored by Bloch Inc., the program will be devoted to her life and career, with Donald Garverick’s The Red Shoes as the headlining piece. March 29–30. balletinthecity.org.
What are the secrets of a long career? All dancers hope to perform for many years, digging deeper into their artistry with each new season. But often, their stage time gets cut short by injury, age-related loss of strength and flexibility, or simply burnout. We asked five longtime dancers what’s kept them going strong for so long.
Webb (in George Balanchine’s Ballet Imperial) does 10 to 30 minutes of cardio daily. Photo by Amitava Sarkar, courtesy Houston Ballet.
Houston Ballet, Principal
Years Onstage: 19
Early Lesson: After a back injury at age 20, the word “core” became part of Webb’s every-day vocabulary. “I have a handful of go-to exercises to prevent my muscles from getting used to any one.”
Conditioning: Webb takes one Pilates and Gyrotonic class each during busy weeks, and more often during down times. She also does cardio every day before class: 20 to 30 minutes of intervals on the elliptical on easy rehearsal days, 10 to 15 steady minutes on the bike otherwise. “I like to start class a bit tired. That’s how I build my stamina.”
Rest Strategy: Webb believes time off should be just that.
Advice: “Budget your effort: If you have six hours of rehearsal, you can’t sustain giving 100 percent for that long. I see younger dancers make this mistake all the time. Be smart, and be your best advocate.”
Garth Fagan Dance
Years Onstage: 37
Pennewell takes two classes a day. Photo by Greg Barrett, courtesy Garth Fagan Dance.
Conditioning: Pennewell builds extra strength by taking two Garth Fagan technique classes a day, one at 11 am, the other at 6 pm.
Nutrition: He stays away from processed foods and sugar, sticking to leafy greens, complex carbs and some meat. “I try to stay as trim as possible. Even five pounds makes a difference in how my knees feel.”
What Keeps Him Going: “Working over and over to make an uncomfortable movement look fluent or count against a constant time signature, you learn to release your focus on being correct and just live in the moment. You’re free to fly.”
Advice: “Learn how to push without fighting, so there’s less exertion.”
Montreal-based independent dancer/choreographer
Lecavalier is a tornado of energy in her 60-minute So Blue. Photo by André Cornellier.
Years Onstage: 38
Counterpoint Classes: Early in her career at La La La Human Steps, Lecavalier learned that her training should be different from what she was performing so the two could feed each other and keep her body balanced. “I took ballet when we were dancing things very far from that.”
Conditioning: Her training regimen has included everything from running to biking to boxing. Today, she takes a daily hatha yoga class (“the unfashionable kind, with no false spiritual talking”) and works with a personal trainer once a week on everything from cardio to light weights. “It’s always different, like a childhood game. It makes me work at things that I am not so good at.”
Nutrition: When she became pregnant with her twin daughters, she became more conscious of what she was eating. “I started to eat a good breakfast—Budwig Muesli—and still do. I also eat less chips and fries.”
Career Strategy: Becoming a solo artist has been key to her longevity. “Because there were so many eyes on me, being a loner protected me.”
What Keeps Her Going: Lecavalier feels she has more to discover about herself as a mover and more to mine in her highly idiosyncratic style. “My body is changing. My understanding is deeper. The mystery is still there.”
Trusnovec, here in Brandenburgs, feels stronger today than at the start of his career. Photo by Paul B. Goode, courtesy PTDC.
Paul Taylor Dance Company
Years Onstage: 19
Conditioning: Trusnovec does Pilates mat exercises daily, and takes reformer/tower/chair sessions privately and with other PTDC dancers. Pilates has helped train his body to move intelligently and fend off small injuries. And his once-a-week 50-minute class at SLT (Strengthen, Lengthen, Tone) offers a challenging, fun cardio workout.
Nutrition Philosophy: “If something makes me feel good, then it’s a good thing.”
On Aging: Trusnovec feels stronger than he did when he was young. “I work smarter in my dancing—I can have more economy. And I am so much more attuned to my body and Paul’s work.”
What Keeps Him Going: “Wanting to learn more. I can’t stop yet because I haven’t figured it all out yet.”
Advice: Keep a life outside of dance. “I am inspired by all kinds of art, such as plays and musicals, especially the imaginative, thought-provoking ones. Recently, I was moved by The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time. I’m lucky to live in New York, where I’m constantly surrounded by everyday art on the streets.”
Twin Cities–based independent dancer/choreographer
Photo by Danny Chan, courtesy Rousse.
Years Onstage: 31
Conditioning: After a serious ankle sprain when she was 33, Rousse found that Pilates helped to stabilize her pelvis. She does a reformer and mat class once a week and also works in mat exercises between barre and center. “I like to sneak it in like David Howard did.” She is now trying to get more cardio into her daily routine.
Class Philosophy: “If there is time to do a combination again, I will.”
Nutrition: As her metabolism has slowed, she’s had to pay more attention to her diet. “Dairy and wheat are now off the menu. I have developed something of an allergy/high sensitivity to these two foods.”
Balance: Rousse keeps a healthy perspective on dance by having a family and a full intellectual life. “I love to travel overseas to new cultures and I’m involved in my community (currently, advocating for more mass transit in Minneapolis). I also love reading novels and biographies and doing crossword puzzles.”
Career Strategy: Now that the co-founder of James Sewell Ballet is pursuing a life as a freelancer, she has entered the entrepreneurial arena. “I’ve been lucky all these years to have so much control over my artistic life.”
Advice: “Dance demands a full curiosity to keep it fresh. Without it, I don’t think I would have stayed interested in dance, and, more importantly, I don’t think that anyone would be interested in me.”
Breakfast Philosophy: “Mornings have always been important to me. I can remember watching my mom busy in the kitchen, talking about how it would be a great day because we were sitting down together and eating good food. It's a tradition, but it's also legit—as an athlete, it certainly helps health-wise."
When: “I'm up at 6, because my baby's up. Around 7 or 7:30, my husband, son and I all have breakfast before I go to the studios for our 9:45 class. It's such a lovely time together before we start the day."
Her Go-Tos: “We always have fruit, like pineapple or berries or melon—whatever's seasonal. They're packed with vitamins and just feel fresh before a hard day at work. And protein—eggs or yogurt. Or sometimes oatmeal."
To Drink: “I always have some orange juice, even if it's just a few sips."
Victoria Jaiani's Sunny Side Up Eggs in Pepper
“This is my favorite breakfast. The first time we tried it was in Vienna. It's yummy, brings good memories, and you're getting vegetables and protein—all the good stuff."
• 1 bell pepper, sliced into 1/2" circles
• 1 egg per pepper slice
• salt and pepper to taste
• 1 oz. feta and a few olives
1. Slice a bell pepper into a circle, and place it on a hot, greased pan and crack an egg inside of it.
2. Season with salt and pepper and cook sunny side up until the egg white is cooked through but the yolk is still runny.
3. Serve with feta cheese and olives on
Photo by Erin Baiano for Dance Spirit.
Beyoncé's lead dancer and dance captain
Breakfast Philosophy: “I'm not the biggest morning person—but I always eat something before I dance, even if I'm not hungry, because as soon as we start I'll be starving."
When: “Around an hour or so after I get up—about 10:30 or 11."
Her Go-To: “I make a lot of smoothies. They satisfy me but leave me feeling light."
If She's On Set: “I'll do an egg white omelet with vegetables and maybe a piece of toast."
Ashley Everett's Green Smoothie
“When I was growing up, my dad used to always cook french toast and waffles and pancakes, but it was hard for my body to process all that and it would weigh me down. Smoothies have been really helpful, because they're liquid but really filling with all these nutrients in them."
• a handful of kale or spinach
• 1 banana
• 1 apple (green)
• 1/2 an avocado
• 1 orange (or orange juice)
• a splash of almond milk
• optional: cucumber or other veggies
Blend in a high-power blender until smooth, and enjoy!
Sturm performing In Your Arms. Photo by Carol Rosegg, Courtesy In Your Arms.
Breakfast Philosophy: “I usually get tossed around a lot in rehearsals, so I have to make sure I have energy but won't feel sick."
When: “Breakfast tends to be the last thing I do as I'm getting ready, but I try to eat at least an hour before I dance."
Her Go-To: “I'll top an English muffin with ricotta cheese, avocado and red pepper flakes. It's perfect for energy in the morning. You get protein, fiber, carbs—everything you really need to sustain energy."
If Her Boyfriend's Cooking: “He'll make me an omelet—they're his specialty—with two or two and a half eggs, onion, tomato and sometimes avocado."
To Drink: “I have flavored coffee, like hazelnut with almond milk."
Paul Taylor Dance Company
Khobdeh in Brandenburgs. Photo by Paul B. Goode, courtesy PTDC.
Breakfast Philosophy: “I find food to be almost ritualistic—eating and creating the space to eat so that I can really enjoy it."
When: “On rehearsal days, I'll wake up, have coffee and go to the gym. I don't like to dance on a full stomach, so I break my fast after rehearsal around noon."
Her Go-Tos: “I like Siggi's yogurt because it's high in protein and has a good ratio of carbs to fat. I'll add everything I can possibly fit into that cup—banana, berries, chia seeds, maybe peanut butter. Or I'll do a rice cake with peanut butter and top that with chia seeds or fresh fruit. Sometimes I'll start with a raspberry chia kombucha."
If She's Performing: “Even though I'm not hungry when I wake up, I'll eat early in the morning so that my body has time to digest before I dance. I'll have protein for muscle maintenance—egg whites with spinach, cheddar, salt and pepper, and green leaves on the side with a little bit of oil and vinegar, or a smoothie with berries, banana and yogurt or milk."
To Drink: “Coffee when I wake up, with a little bit of whole milk."
Photo by Gadi Dagon, courtesy Batsheva
Batsheva Dance Company
Breakfast Philosophy: “Plain and simple does the job for me in the morning. Especially if I'm in a rush, which is usually the case."
When: “Around 9 am, before class
His Go-To: “When I was in high school
I would commute to Manhattan, and my dad taught me how to make a quick and easy omelet, so the habit has stuck with me: Most mornings I'll make a two- or three-egg omelet with pepper, onion and tomato."
If He's in a Rush: “I'll have a bowl of Cheerios and pick up a salmon, lettuce and cream cheese sandwich on the way to the studio and have it after class at 11:30."
To Drink: “I make a pretty large mug of coffee at the studio after class."
Kremlin Ballet Theatre
Photo by Quinn Wharton for Pointe.
Breakfast Philosophy: “I used to skip breakfast to avoid the feeling of being weighed down. I learned the hard way that was a bad idea."
Her Go-To: “After I wake up, I drink water and a special blend of Russian herb tea for cleansing and hormonal stability. Then I'll have two of my own energy bars, Prima Bar Minis. Each has 10 grams of protein, 9 grams of carbs and 6 grams of natural sugars."
When: “My breakfast is usually on the go—I like to work out right after I wake up. If it's a light workout day, I'll eat after the gym and before I head to class. If it's a 'push it' kind of workout day, then I have one Prima Bar Mini to fuel me through my session, and one after."B
To Drink: “I drink coffee with lemon. When I'm in the States I enjoy having coffee with almond or coconut milk, but unfortunately that's not available in Russia. Lemon is healthy, tasty, and now I prefer my coffee like this. It's kind of like a coffee lemonade." n
Ashley Rivers, a writer and dancer in Boston, once read that Ginger Rogers ate two eggs and toast for breakfast, so that's what she's eaten ever since.
Dancer Amy Young in rehearsal with Paul Taylor. Courtesy Resident Artist Films.
Growing up near Louisville, Kentucky, there wasn't too much professional dance in my region. So whenever a company visited, it was a treat. I still remember Paul Taylor Dance Company's stop at the Brown Theatre during its 50th-anniversary tour. I was in high school, and it was the first modern dance concert I'd attended. Needless to say, I was absolutely captivated. The musicality, the theatricality, and the humanity of it all struck me. More than anything, watching Taylor's meticulously crafted choreography left me wondering just how he did it.
That's the question director Kate Geis and executive producer Robert Aberlin sought to answer with their new documentary Paul Taylor: Creative Domain. The film gives viewers an inside look into Taylor's creative process as he makes his 133rd dance, Three Dubious Memories. But even though it reveals intimate rehearsal footage, I found that it raised more questions, making me more curious. Who exactly is Paul Taylor? Where do his ideas come from? What's the motivation behind a certain movement? Creative Domain makes it clear that oftentimes, his dancers may never know, and that sometimes, Taylor himself delights in that very same ambiguity.
My favorite moments of the documentary were instances when Taylor revealed small secrets of his work. For instance, when flipping through the notebook he kept while creating Three Dubious Memories—he keeps one for each dance he makes—he points out a formation he took from Antony Tudor, saying, "Amateurs borrow. Professionals steal."
Now in his 80s, Taylor remains active in rehearsals, demonstrating movement, even partnering dancers to show just how he'd like something done. And he seems to prefer it that way, explaining that less talking in rehearsal is better. To finish the piece on time, he's lays out a strict schedule of no more than 90 minutes of rehearsal at a time for a maximum of four days a week for four weeks.
Interestingly enough, during an age in which "collaboration," in reference to the choreographic process, is a buzzword all its own, Taylor says that he doesn't think of himself as a collaborator. Instead, he does his part making the dance, and the dancers take it from there. Each person is a puzzle piece and all of them are necessary. At one point, rehearsal director Bettie de Jong likens the dancers to colors of paint, each having his or her own hue, but that sometimes they show a bit of another one's shade.
Paul Taylor in rehearsal with his PTDC. Photo by Whitney Browne.
The last time a modern dance visionary announced plans for the future of his company, it was Merce Cunningham. The strategy: to let his troupe go out with a bang—and then disband—when he died.
Paul Taylor is taking a different approach. In March, he and his board announced a major restructuring of the Paul Taylor Dance Company, which has solely danced his work for 60 years. Beginning in 2015, the newly named Paul Taylor’s American Modern Dance will have a three-pronged mission: to dance new and old Taylor repertoire; to restage classics by pioneers like Martha Graham and Doris Humphrey; and to present new work by current choreographers.
“I think Paul Taylor is looking to become more engaged in the entire art form of American modern dance,” says executive director John Tomlinson. “Rather than just putting his head down and creating the best work he can, he wants to take on some of the responsibility of curating and preserving the art form across all of its many differences.”
Tomlinson could not confirm which new choreographers would be working with the company, though he did mention that it has found a potential creative ally in New York City Ballet’s Peter Martins. At a press conference at Lincoln Center’s David H. Koch Theater, home to PTDC’s New York seasons since 2012, the 83-year-old Taylor stated, “I like movement and dance steps. I’m not wild about a lot of talking and high-tech effects. I like dancing. That’s my taste. And I want to push that.” A through-line of the initiative, Tomlinson added, will be the use of live music when possible, a “mark of excellence” that Taylor has insisted on.
While broader in scope and perhaps better funded (with a projected $10 million funding it as of March), Taylor’s new structure resembles what has emerged at Martha Graham Dance Company, which has reimagined itself since Graham’s death. MGDC repertoire includes Graham masterpieces, seminal mid-century works by choreographers like Jane Dudley and Mary Wigman, and commissions. “We have these masterpieces, which we see as our core collection,” said executive director LaRue Allen, “just as the Picasso Museum in Paris has its core of Picasso works.” In February, the company announced that it received $1 million from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation to digitize archival materials, from videos to programs to stage maps. When complete, online “toolkits” will be available for educational and research purposes.
Tomlinson said that while he values preservation, Taylor’s priority is to ensure the continued life—onstage—of great modern dance: “Whether it be a new or old work or his work, he wants them seen.”
Paul Taylor’s Beloved Renegade, with Michael Trusnovec and Laura Halzack.
Photo by Paul B. Goode, Courtesy PTDC.
Mark May 3 on your calendars: PBS’ Great Performances will air a new program starring the Paul Taylor Dance Company at 9:00 p.m. Taped at the Les Etés de la Danse festival in Paris last summer, the evening includes Taylor’s virtuosic Brandenburgs and the poignant Beloved Renegade, inspired by the life and work of Walt Whitman. Check local listings. —Kina Poon
My Life. By Isadora Duncan. With new introduction by Joan Acocella. Liveright. 352 pages. $17.95.
Ecstasy, tragedy, Art with a capital “A.” She tangoed all night in Buenos Aires, built a temple for dance in the rocky hills of Athens, and was carried through Budapest by adoring fans. Isadora Duncan transformed her loves and losses into choreography never before created, and reawakened the world to the power of dance. In her book she wrote of the triumphs, the scandal, the sensuous delights, the heartbreak that fascinated the world through the flaming arc of her career.
Yes, Isadora’s 1927 autobiography has been reissued by Liveright. Experience, with Isadora, the mystic power of the dance, the rigors of the artist’s life, the adulation of international artists and intellectuals, and the fight for women’s and workers’ rights. Know the struggles of a single woman supporting her family and her entourage. Experience, too, her frustration at her inability to establish a school for her art, and her bottomless grief at the loss of her two children.
The new unexpurgated edition of My Life has an introduction by noted dance writer Joan Acocella. She teases out Isadora’s authentic voice and questions her claim that publishers encouraged her to up the salacious content of this autobiography. Acocella fleshes out the cast of characters and provides historical context as well. But it is Isadora’s voice we hear: intelligent, petulant, agonized, passionate. She reminds us that it is all worth it, that when we dance we become one with all the wonders of the universe. —Alice Bloch
Facts and Fancies: Essays Written Mostly for Fun. By Paul Taylor. Delphinium Books. 210 pages. $14.95.
No fan of Taylor’s dances should miss this slender grab bag of autobiographical essays, philosophical ruminations, fictional endeavors, skewed reminiscences, light verse, and outrageous parodies. In his 1987 memoir, Private Domain, the choreographer revealed a literary sensibility inclined to quirky role-playing and whimsical understatement. Taylor relishes those tones here. He plays the curmudgeon brilliantly in “How to Tell Ballet from Modern.” He proclaims that in ballet “everything is done with stiff necks, locked knees and limp wrists,” neglecting to tell us that Lincoln Kirstein once nearly recruited him for New York City Ballet. Taylor also needles pretentious critics, even those who like his dances (“Poggie in the Quiet, by Cleave Yarns”), and ridicules know-nothing interviewers from the hinterlands who expect you to explain the meaning of your art in 25 words or less, on their deadline. When Taylor doffs his mask, he is astonishingly perceptive and deeply personal about an artist’s needs in “Why I Make Dances” (“because it briefly frees me from coping with the real world”). He proves downright solicitous while teaching a dance to a couple of guys (“Two Bozos Seen Through Glass: An Epiphany”) and turns downright tender, musing about his departed dog (“My Dear Dogmatist”). A few recycled nuggets from Private Domain include Taylor’s graphic recounting of the premiere of his first hit, Aureole. He confesses that he didn’t think much of it, but the dance world sure did. —Allan Ulrich
The Pointe Book: Shoes, Training, Technique. Third Edition. By Janice Barringer and Sarah Schlesinger. Princeton Book Company. 2012. 368 pages. Paperback: $27.95; hard cover: $39.95.
Janice Barringer, in her preface to The Pointe Book, states that her and co-author Sarah Schlesinger’s goal is to “unravel all the mystery” of pointe shoes. Now in its third edition, the book more than reaches their mission, leaving no stone unturned in its exhaustive breakdown of pointe shoe history, foot mechanics, proper fitting procedures, shoe characteristics, manufacturer profiles, pointe-related injuries, and teaching philosophies.
The Pointe Book is a must-read for beginning pointe students and their parents. The authors offer detailed information on pointe shoe anatomy and proper shoe care, as well as what to expect at an initial fitting. A revised listing of pointe shoe models allows dancers to easily search styles based on preferred features such as vamp lengths, shank strengths, widths, box shapes, and foot types. (For the animal lover, there’s even a list of vegan varieties!) A series of conversations with leading ballerinas has been updated to include current talents Tiler Peck, Maria Kowroski, Sarah Lane, and Gillian Murphy.
For teachers, the authors address signs of pointe readiness and early training basics, with a new section devoted to pre-pointe strengthening exercises. Master teachers such as David Howard, Suki Schorer, Peff Modelski, Adrienne Dellas, and Diana Byer offer insights into their training philosophies, while a healthy cross-section of company schools and private studios discuss their various training methods (sample pointe classes included). Teeming with practical advice, this book serves as an excellent reference guide for dancers at all levels. —Amy Brandt
Modern dance has often tackled pressing social issues, and who better to team up with activist college students than Ailey II? The company, in partnership with recording artists and mtvU, recently participated in an initiative to raise awareness about human trafficking. “The Backstory,” a student-driven interactive website, features short videos of Ailey II, choreographed by director Troy Powell. Depicting individuals falling victim to modern-day slavery, the films, inspired by real stories, are heartbreaking and powerful. See www.TheBackstory.MTV.com. —K. P.
Rhythm Is It! Kultur. 100 minutes. $24.99.
Imagine choreographing a Rite of Spring for 250 dancers—250 bodies on one stage (that’s more than the entire Bolshoi Ballet), feverishly summoning the sacrifice of the Chosen One. Now imagine that of those 250, most are adolescents with no formal dance training, who dismiss “serious” dance as a waste of time.
Such was the task that Royston Maldoom undertook in 2003—with the help of fellow educators Susannah Broughton and Volker Eisenach—under the auspices of the Berlin Philharmonic’s arts-in-education program, Zukunft@BPhil. The inspirational documentary Rhythm Is It!, created in 2004 and newly released in the U.S. by Kultur (just in time for The Rite of Spring’s centennial), chronicles Maldoom’s dogged work with students from Berlin public schools and the individual journeys of those youngsters, many of whom come from disadvantaged backgrounds or troubled family situations.
The film, though murky on the logistics of this ambitious project (www.rhythmisit.com provides some missing context), takes us inside rehearsals where teenage apathy, self-doubt, and eye-rolling defiance slowly give way to a hushed reverence for movement and glimmers of newfound self-confidence. Directors Enrique Sánchez Lansch and Thomas Grube alternate those scenes with footage of the Philharmonic and its jubilant, impassioned conductor, Sir Simon Rattle, as they practice Stravinsky’s thrilling score.
Rhythm Is It! captures not just the making of a dance (though the full production, on Disc 2, is worth watching) but the personal, psychological transformations that dance can empower. As Broughton, a gentle and grounding presence in the film, tells her students, “You practice physically, and then emotionally and mentally, everything will catch up with you.” —Siobhan Burke