TBT: Paul Taylor On Not Wanting to “Go On Doing the Same Thing Forever”

May 12, 2022

When Paul Taylor appeared on the cover of the May 1962 issue of Dance Magazine, the dancer and choreographer was accruing favorable reviews as a lead performer with the Martha Graham Dance Company while also furiously raising funds to get his small troupe of six (including himself) to Paris to present­ his choreography at an international festival. While there, he began­ work on Aureole, which he would premiere later that year to great acclaim,­ leading to his departure from Graham’s company to focus­ on his own.

Paul Taylor and members of his company in his American Genesis (1973). Taylor retired from performing after the New York premiere of the work in 1974. Photo by Kenn Duncan, courtesy DM Archives.

Having trained with the likes of Doris Humphrey, José Limón, Merce Cunningham and, of course, Graham after becoming interested in dance in college, Taylor proved to be a prolific, chameleonic choreographer who drew from an eclectic musical palette. Of the 147 works he created in his lifetime, many are considered modern classics, from the sweeping examination of pedestrian movement that became Esplanade (1975) to the playful and virtuosic Arden Court (1981) to the transcendent Promethean Fire (2002).

Reflecting in our February 1976 issue, he said, “I don’t know if I got better or worse from year to year, but I know I changed. I’m still changing. I never want to go on doing the same thing forever.” It was a sentiment he continued to echo, noting in our April 1980 issue, “When you present one-choreographer programs, I think your audience has a right to expect variety.”

Taylor inspired a particular loyalty among his dancers that saw many dedicate much or all of their careers to his company. He received numerous awards for lifetime achievement, among them a Dance Magazine Award (1980), a Kennedy Center Honor (1992) and the National Medal of Arts (1993), as well as a MacArthur “genius” grant.

He continued choreographing until the end of his life, premiering his final work, Concertiana, in March 2018. He died that August at age 88.