Newsweek's dance critic Laura Shapiro's modern dance history lesson: "In the beginning there was Martha Graham, who changed the face of an art form and discovered a new world. Then there was Merce Cunningham, who stripped away the externals and showed us the heart of movement. And then there was Paul Taylor, who let the sun shine in."
And boy, does that sun feel good. The last living modern dance master of his era is celebrating his 80th birthday this year. Still as prolific as ever, Taylor's light on the dance world never dulls. Despite coming into dance relatively later than most dancers, in 1955 he signed on to Martha Graham's Dance Company as a soloist, where he stayed for seven years. He also worked on his own choreography during that time, until 1974, when he retired as a dancer to devote his time to his choreography and dance company.
Taylor is known for an all-encompassing variety of work: pleasant and pretty, yet dark and bizarre. In response to the sometimes controversial nature of his work, Taylor says "one of my aims is to present questions rather than answers." He challenges societal beliefs with pieces like Cloven Kingdom, where men and women in business suits are deconstructed to their primal urges and animal-like qualities. Relationships are put under a magnifying glass in Brief Encounters - couples focus on the immediacy of short-term relationships rather than long-term. Finally, Esplanade moves through the motions of life with the celebration of youth, sorrow in dysfunctional familial relationships, and, of course, love.
The breadth of his work and subject matter make Paul Taylor a modern dance force and legend. Let the sun shine on you.