Paul Taylor. Two simple names, one complex existence.

Nov 29, 2010

I wish I had the words to describe Paul Taylor. I wish I could summarize his life in just a few short sentences. I wish that I could tell you of all the great work he has done, all the people he has touched, all the lives he has changed by writing a short, informational blog; but alas, even the synonyms feature on my computer cannot come up with the right combination of words to create a tribute to Taylor's career.

If you do not know who Paul Taylor is, prepare to be impressed. This man, this choreographer, this dancer, has been one of the most influential people in the dance world for many years. And I now realize, the only way to tell you about him, is to show you. The timeline below highlights his greatest moments, his most influential work, and, well, his many years of ecstasy.           

1930: Paul Belville Taylor was born July 29, 1930 in Allegheny, PA; son of Paul B. (a physicist) and Elizabeth (Rust) Taylor and grew up in and around Washington, D.C. At this point, Taylor was just a small child; people applauded his first steps and spelling tests. No one yet knew the talent that would come from this infant.

1940s: Before he was the greatest force in modern dance, he was a swimmer and student of painting at Syracuse University. However, when he shook hands with the art form of dance, he never looked back and began studying dance at Juilliard. Impressed yet?

1950s: Taylor began creating work that was so cutting-edge, it sent perplexed audience members flocking to the exits! After that, it was only appropriate that Martha Graham, the "Picasso of modern dance," dubbed Taylor the "naughty boy" of dance.

1950s: Talk about the fabulous fifties! In just ten years, Taylor joined the Martha Graham Dance Company for the first of seven seasons as soloist while continuing to choreograph for his own troupe. And, as a guest artist, Taylor danced with New York City Ballet!

1960s: The Paul Taylor Dance Company made its first international tour! The company has since performed in more than 520 cities in 62 countries. (And to think, I have only been to Florida.)

1970s: Taylor put incest center stage and revealed the beast lurking just below humans' sophisticated veneer in Cloven Kingdom (1976) - not many can say they've put such controversial topics on stage and lived to tell the tale, let alone be praised for it.

1974: Taylor retired as a performer. Instead of living in his bathrobe (as some retirees do) he then devoted himself fully to choreography and kept cranking out masterpieces such as, (deep breath)...  Esplanade, Cloven Kingdom, Dust, Airs, Mercuric Tidings, Le Sacre du Printemps (The Rehearsal), Arden Court, Last Look, Musical Offering, Syzygy, Speaking in Tongues, Company B, Eventide, Piazzolla Caldera, Promethean Fire, Banquet of Vultures, and Beloved Renegade. Whew.

2000: In the first decade of the new millennium, Taylor had condemned American imperialism, poked fun at feminism, and looked death square in the face. And yet, Taylor had also made some of the most purely romantic, most astonishingly athletic, and downright funniest dances ever put on stage!

2009: So far Taylor has checked off swimmer, painter, dancer, and choreographer from his list. But now, he can also check off poet. His poignant looks at soldiers in battle,  and those they leave behind, in Company B, caused The New York Times to say that he "ranks among the great war poets."

2010: Today, Taylor is the last living member of the pantheon that created America's indigenous art form, modern dance. Taylor remains among the most sought-after choreographers working today, commissioned by ballet companies and presenting organizations the world over.

Allyson Taubenheim
-Marketing Intern and U of M Student



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