Dance Teachers Trending

Paul Taylor: Carrying the torch for the second generation of modern dance

Taylor in a 1960s production of Aureole. Photo by Mitchell Alan, courtesy of Paul Taylor Dance Company

Paul Taylor is a prolific choreographer of the 20th and 21st centuries known for his often paradoxical take on modern dance, highlighting light and dark themes and balancing pedestrian movement with a sweeping lyricism.

Paul Belville Taylor Jr. was born in Pennsylvania, nine months after the 1929 stock market crash. After his parents divorced, he lived a transitory life—on a farm with a foster family; with his older sister's family; at a boarding school—and developed a rich imagination as a result.

Taylor enrolled at Syracuse University in 1950 on a swimming scholarship but discovered dance in the library, poring over photographs and stories of famous dancers. He left Syracuse two years later and spent a summer at the American Dance Festival, where he met Doris Humphrey, Louis Horst and Martha Graham. Graham invited him to join her company in New York City.

In NYC, Taylor studied dance at Juilliard during the day and spent his evenings dancing for Graham. He also joined Merce Cunningham's fledgling company and began developing his own work. His evening-length Seven New Dances (1957) gave him a reputation as an iconoclast in the modern dance world. Eager to include stillness and pedestrian movement in his work, one piece featured him and a partner standing in silence to John Cage's 4'33"; in another, Taylor moved minimally to the recording of a telephone operator's voice on repeat. Horst infamously reviewed the evening in the Dance Observer with four inches of blank space.

For Taylor, 1962 was a pivotal year. ADF commissioned Aureole, a lyrical piece that demonstrated a new choreographic direction: less pedestrian and more technical movement. Taylor also left Graham's company after seven years to focus solely on his own work, creating such well-received pieces like the satiric From Sea to Shining Sea (1965) and the unexpectedly dark Big Bertha (1970).

In 1974, at age 44, Taylor stopped dancing in his own work. One year later, he created Esplanade, a rollicking octet inspired by the sight of a girl running for the bus, now considered by many to be his masterpiece.

Taylor has created, on average, two works a year since 1986. He's also published an autobiography (Private Domain, 1987), been the subject of two documentaries (Dancemaker, 1998, and Creative Domain, 2014) and written a book of essays (Facts and Fancies, 2013).

Photo by Maxine Hicks, courtesy of Paul Taylor Dance Company

The Work

In his choreography, Taylor often contrasts light and dark themes, like war, sexuality, religion, loss and even insects.

Aureole (1962) This jubilant, expansive piece, set to Handel, was an early foray into baroque music for Taylor. Its musicality and detail caused many to term it a ballet.

Esplanade (1975) Set to Bach violin pieces, this was a return to Taylor's earlier love of pedestrian movement, with walking, running and skipping. In the exuberant finale, the dancers perform daredevil floor slides and leaps into each other's arms.

Le Sacre du Printemps (The Rehearsal) (1980) With perhaps Taylor's most linear (and humorous) storyline, this work is a pastiche of 1920s movie stereotypes and includes a detective story about a kidnapped baby.

Company B (1991) In this meditation on wartime attitudes, Taylor juxtaposed Americans' high spirits in the 1940s with the sacrifices of World War II, set to the Andrews Sisters' songs.

Paul Taylor Dance Company in a 2015 production of Taylor's Company B. Photo by Paul B. Goode, courtesy of Paul Taylor Dance Company


Though there is no codified technique, Taylor's style includes an open, spiraling torso, with fully extended arms and legs. Some popular steps have names, like the scoop—arms open in an elevated second position, with palms facing up—and the high V, in which palms face out. The Aureole runs require arm coordination and torso opposition and make it look as if the dancer is flying across the floor. The Taylor “walk" is a hallmark of both company auditions and his choreography: With an upright torso and open chest, the dancer walks forward, slowly and deliberately, with legs slightly turned out and arms static by his or her side.

Fun Fact

Taylor's childhood imaginary friend, George Tacet, is often credited for costume and set design in his work.

The Legacy Continues

Since 1954, Taylor has made 142 dances, many of which are still performed by his company, Taylor 2 (the second company, formed in 1993) and companies around the world, including American Ballet Theatre, San Francisco Ballet and the Royal Danish Ballet. In addition to the Taylor dancers who have gone on to become directors of their own companies (Twyla Tharp, David Parsons and Laura Dean) many have become influential educators: Carolyn Adams of The Ailey School; Ruth Andrien, rehearsal director for Taylor 2; Linda Kent of Juilliard; and Raegan Wood, who directs the Taylor School.



“Raegan Wood: How I teach modern dance to children," by Jenny Dalzell, Dance Teacher, March 2012

American Dance: The Complete Illustrated History, by Margaret Fuhrer, Voyageur Press, 2014

Fifty Contemporary Choreographers, 2nd ed., edited by Martha Bremser and Lorna Sanders, Routledge, 2011


Dance Heritage Coalition: “America's Irreplaceable Dance Treasures":

The Conversation
Dance Teachers Trending
Photo courtesy of Hightower

The beloved "So You Think You Can Dance" alum and former Emmy-nominated "Dancing with the Stars" pro Chelsie Hightower discovered her passion for ballroom at a young age. She showed a natural ability for the Latin style, but she mastered the necessary versatility by studying jazz, ballet and other forms of dance. "Every style of dance builds on each other," she says, "and the more music you're exposed to, the more your rhythm and coordination is built."

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored by Harlequin Floors
Burklyn Ballet, Courtesy Harlequin

Whether you're putting on a pair of pointe shoes, buckling your ballroom stilettos or lacing up your favorite high tops, the floor you're on can make or break your dancing. But with issues like sticking or slipping and a variety of frictions suitable to different dance steps and styles, it can be confusing to know which floor will work best for you.

No matter what your needs are, Harlequin Floors has your back, or rather, your feet. With 11 different marley vinyl floors available in a range of colors, Harlequin has options for every setting and dance style. We rounded up six of their most popular and versatile floors:

Keep reading... Show less
Studio Owners
Getty Images

Dance teachers have a lot of strengths (communicating corrections, choreographing gorgeous movement, planning excellent recitals, cleaning technique—just to name a few) but when it comes to interior design—talent isn't exactly a given. So when studio owners remodel or build, worrying about the decor can feel a little overwhelming (you've got just a few too many other things to worry about, don't you?).

No need to fear! In 2019 we have Pinterest, which shows us all the latest trends we should know about. To help you make the best design decisions for your studio, we've compiled a list of public Pinterest pins we think you'll love.

You're welcome!

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored by Insure Fitness
AdobeStock, Courtesy Insure Fitness Group

As a teacher at a studio, you've more than likely developed long-lasting relationships with some of your students and parents. The idea that you could be sued by one of them might seem impossible to imagine, but Insure Fitness Group's Gianna Michalsen warns against relaxing into that mindset. "People say, 'Why do I need insurance? I've been working with these people for 10 years—we're friends,'" she says. "But no one ever takes into account how bad an injury can be. Despite how good your relationship is, people will sue you because of the toll an injury takes on their life."

You'll benefit most from an insurance policy that caters to the specifics of teaching dance at one or several studios. Here's what to look for:

Keep reading... Show less
Dance Teacher Tips
Vanessa Zahorian. Photo by Erik Larson, courtesy of Pennsylvania Ballet Academy

At the LINES Ballet Dance Center in San Francisco, faculty member Erik Wagner leads his class through an adagio combination in center. He encourages dancers to root their standing legs, using imagery of a seed germinating, so that they feel more grounded. "Our studios are on the fifth floor, so I'll often tell them to push down to Market Street," says Wagner. "They know that they should push their energy down to the street level." By using this oppositional force, he says, dancers can lengthen their bodies to create any desired shape.

Keep reading... Show less
Studio Success with Just for Kix
Bill Johnson, Courtesy Just for Kix

Running a dance studio is a feat in itself. But adding a competition team into the mix brings a whole new set of challenges. Not only are you focusing on giving your dancers the best training possible, but you're navigating the fast-paced competition and convention circuit. Winning is one goal, but you also want to create an environment that's fun, educational and inspiring for young artists. We asked Cindy Clough, executive director of Just For Kix and a studio owner with over 40 years of experience, for her advice on building a healthy dance team culture:

Keep reading... Show less
Dance Teacher Tips
Getty Images

After years of throwing summer parties at your studio, you're likely fatigued by coming up with themes and event details. You want your students to have a good time, but you're also up to your eyeballs in choreography and costume decisions.

Never fear! We've come up with party themes and activities to do during the event. Delegate tasks to your teachers and office managers, and voilà! You have a stress-free party ready to go.

Have a blast, people!

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored by World Class Vacations
David Galindo Photography

New York City is a dream destination for many dancers. However aspiring Broadway stars don't have to wait until they're pros to experience all the city has to offer. With Dance the World Broadway, students can get a taste of the Big Apple—plus hone their dance skills and make lasting memories.

Here's why Dance the World Broadway is the best way for students to experience NYC:

Keep reading... Show less
Dancer Health

Q: I recently returned to a modern dance class after a long absence. While I didn't feel any acute pain at the end of class, the next morning I could barely walk from the soreness in both my Achilles. What can I do to fix this?

Keep reading... Show less
Studio Owners
Getty Images

Q: I'm trying to think of ways to maximize studio space and revenue during the summer. What has worked for you?

Keep reading... Show less
Studio Owners
Getty Images

In 2019, dance parents are more eager than ever to observe their child's progress, and stay up-to-date with the ins and outs of what's happening in the classroom. That means yearly recitals aren't always enough to keep them satisfied—especially if you have rules against visitors observing class from week to week. The solution? Visitor observation weeks. Trust us, the guardians and loved ones of your students will love you for it!

We caught up with Suzanne Blake Gerety, vice president of Kathy Blake Dance Studios and regular contributor to Dance Teacher's "Ask The Experts" column, to hear her tips on how to have a successful visitor observation week.

Keep reading... Show less
Dancer Health
Adequate dorsiflexion mobility is needed to find a supple demi-plié needed to bound into the air and land safely. Getty Images

Dancers are trained to think often about the range of motion, stability and power of their extended lines: the point of the foot, the reach of the penché, the explosion of the sauté in the air. But finding that same mix of flexibility and strength in the flexed foot is just as integral to technique and injury prevention. Without adequate dorsiflexion mobility, it is nearly impossible to find the kind of supple demi-plié needed to bound into the air and land safely.

Keep reading... Show less


Get DanceTeacher in your inbox