Paul Taylor, Legendary Dance Maker

For the first time in nearly 20 years, the Paul Taylor Dance Company is coming to The Music Hall on September 10 to perform a choreographic blend of signature Taylor pieces as well as a new work. In anticipation of the company’s arrival on our historical stage, and in an effort to incite excitement for those attending, I revisited the company’s documentary, Dancemaker.  Released in 1998, this Academy Award-nominated film follows Paul Taylor and his company of dancers throughout the choreographic creative processes of “making dance.” Filled with behind-the-scenes looks and previews of some of Paul’s greatest pieces, the cinematography provides total insight into the life of this dance maker and his muses. This documentary is available to stream on Youtube and you can watch it in its entirety here. 

There are a few brilliant moments in this film that I want to share to tide us over until September:

#1 – “Aureole”
Probably the most prolific performance from his own years as a dancer, Paul choreographed the male adagio solo in his piece Aureole on himself. With movement that is still captured in his body through muscle memory, check out this moment (24:36) where Paul reminisces on this role, while rehearsal footage from company member Patrick Corbin is simultaneously blended with Paul’s performance from 1962. It’s almost like a duet; Paul’s powerful transfer of the movement to Patrick is realized through immense artistry. 

#2 – “Cloven Kingdom”
While on a month-long tour to India, the company performed Taylor’s Cloven Kingdom. A piece choreographed in 1976, the subtitle, and Paul’s inspiration for this piece, comes from a quote from Baruch Spinoza: “Man is a social animal.” In Paul’s own words, “It seems always clear to me that we’re animals basically or that we’re grown from animals. So the dance tries to a picture the ‘cloven’ part of our kingdom, between the formal society and a primitive one.”

I love the juxtaposition in the alternating shots (48:58) between Paul seemingly uncomfortable at a social gathering with audience members, while an excerpt from the men’s quartet in Cloven Kingdom is shown alongside. Dressed in full tuxedos, the male dancers exhibit animalistic movements with force and vigor. Lucky for us, Cloven Kingdom is also on the program for their Music Hall performance, so you can catch this quartet and Cloven Kingdom in its entirety live on our historic stage.

#3 – “No music?”
While in India, the company endures one of my favorite backstage moments ever. During a performance of Musical Offering, the music suddenly cuts out mid-piece. Immediately, you can hear Production Manager Stacey-Jo Marine ask, “No music? No music at all?” Stacey-Jo and the backstage team quickly assemble to try and get the music back. The dancers continue dancing while watching each other and maintaining their internal tempos. The music finally turns back on, and it takes Stacey-Jo a moment to know if the music was playing from where it shut off or if the music continued to play inaudibly while the company continued to dance. A tense viewpoint to endure between onstage and off, check out what happens next (practically a theater miracle) here (1:01:21). 

If you haven’t already purchased your tickets yet for Paul Taylor Dance Company on September 10, I hope this visit through Dancemaker helps inspire you to do so. Tickets are available on our website, plus discounts for group sales and students are available. Perfect for bringing your aspiring dancer to!

The countdown to September 10 is on, and I’ll see you there!


Want to continue your journey of learning more about Paul Taylor and his company? Check out these recommendations: