Orion Duckstein, who danced with the Paul Taylor Dance Company for 11 years (plus four years with Taylor 2), retired from the company in August to join the faculty of Adelphi University as visiting professor. Duckstein teaches modern and improvisation to the BFA program’s 39 majors, and he works with several seniors in independent studies.
Though Duckstein is new as a full-time teacher, the proximity of his stage career is a real benefit for the school. “Most of the faculty has been away from the stage for some years, but he’s fresh off the skillet,” says Adelphi dance program director Frank Augustyn. “I find that if students are trained by someone who has danced professionally and has done it successfully, they will want to learn more, and they’ll believe in their teacher. All of a sudden a professional career becomes very real and very achievable.”
The Taylor 2 Company was in residence at the university for a month during Duckstein’s first semester, and he performed Paul Taylor’s Esplanade with the students. “It connected my past to my present,” he says. “It was like bringing a potential spouse home to meet the family; Taylor’s work is something that’s in my blood and bones, and these kids are my charge, so I want them to love each other.”
The students had only three and a half weeks to learn the 30 minutes of Esplanade from Taylor 2’s rehearsal director Ruth Andrian, while also rehearsing four other dances and carrying a full academic load. “They were exhausted afterwards,” says Duckstein. “And the exhaustion you get from Paul’s work is such a complete one because he wants your soul in those steps.” Though Duckstein’s stint as visiting assistant professor is only one year long, he hopes it will become a much longer stay. “Long term,” he says, “I would like my students to experience the satisfaction of finishing lots of shows feeling like that, a lifetime of them.”
Photo: Orion Duckstein and Amy Young with PTDC in Dandelion Wine (courtesy of Paul Taylor Dance Company)