Rest In Peace: Paul Taylor

“I want to lift the audience to the miraculous in human nature. After all, we shouldn’t be here, with all the odds against us in nature. It’s kind of unusual and wonderful!”
Paul Taylor

Rest in Peace: Paul Taylor

Today’s date is August 29, 2018

When I first took Dance History class I fell in love with Dance History. Especially the Modern Era from roughly 1900 to 1960. Then came the Post-Modern Era and then the jokes come out. Maybe we are in the Post-Post-Modern Era now or the Post-Post-Post.

Dancers get cred in two ways.

One, they have to have gone to New York. You don’t have to be successful, you can return to your hometown and say, “When I was in New York” and it will have weight. New York has always been the place to make dance and it is hard! The dancers are in amazing shape, the critics are harsh (unless you are from New York), the work is hard to get and paid work even harder.

Second, it is who you have danced for. This makes a “tree” of choreographers from Isadora Duncan to Martha Graham to Paul Taylor to Merce Cunningham to Twyla Tharp to Jose Limon and so on. Even if they are dead, when you can say that you danced for the Graham company; people give you cred.

For example, my boss had danced for Ruth St. Denis and Martha Graham and Alvin Ailey. She was respected! She even shows up in Alvin’s Autobiography.

You can be amazing but without those two supports it is very hard to make it and be respected. Sure, there are plenty of exceptions. But, in the big general, this is the way it goes.

Paul Taylor attended Juilliard. Typically this means “pathway to Broadway dancer”. Like theater design from Yale to Broadway or animation from CalArts to Disney or film making from USC to Hollywood, these are like mini-mafias.

He started his own company after graduation but also danced as a soloist for Martha Graham for seven years. There is the cred to get his company some pre-respect.

Paul Taylor has two quotes that I have always liked but, like so many, he probably didn’t say but gets the credit:

“The problem with naked dancers is that when they stop, the rest of them doesn’t.”


“You can’t choreograph a pony-tail.”

Seeing how many dancers wear their hair back in rehearsal, it could easily drive a man crazy to see it swinging out of control.

And why not show some video? This is Esplanade, his most famous piece I think. Recorded in 1977 for WNET, I assume some public broadcasting channel.

My cred? Just by chance Nicholas Gunn is dancing in this video, yeah, I worked with him once on a dance piece.

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