Last Friday, I attended the Paul Taylor Summer Intensive lecture demonstration at New York City’s LaGuardia High School. Every Friday, students have an opportunity to demonstrate the repertoire they’ve learned in an informal showcase. Students learn original repertoire from former Paul Taylor and Taylor II company dancers.
At this week’s showing, students performed exerts from Taylor’s Runes (1975), Esplanade (1975), Images (1977) and Aureole (1962). These selections were so interesting because they showed different aspects of Taylor’s technique. Runes, a collaboration with composer Gerald Busby, is a ritualistic dance that repeats movement to emphasize the nature of a ritual. The second piece, Esplanade, utilizes a lot of pedestrian movement, including lots of running and leaping. The dance features a good mix of chaos and structure, keeping the audiences’ wandering eyes from leaving the dancers. Images, was inspired by flat, Byzantine paintings, focusing on the unique shapes and curves created by the dancer’s bodies. The last piece, Aureole, with its springing jumps and parallel glissades reminded me of classical ballet. All the pieces focused on various aspects of modern dance technique, ranging from floorwork to jumps, making each piece a special testament to itself. Repertory instructor Susan McGuire pointed out that many of the pieces played around with gender roles, challenging students to play with movement and character roles that they may not normally get to perform. eol
Students were selected to perform in one of the pieces, and each piece had three casts. While the thought of watching each piece three times seems like a chore, it was actually quite fascinating to see how each cast brought the dances to life. Each of the casts brought something new to each dance, from solid technical precision, to poignant, expressive movement.
Tom Patrick, one of the repertory instructors, said that words are key when teaching this technique to young students. He emphasized that dancers need to “understand the shape of the music and not just dance to counts.”
For young students just learning this technique, Patrick feels that Taylor technique is incredibly useful for young dancers entering today’s competitive field.
“Taylor treats the body in so many ways, “ said Patrick. “From floorwork, to springing feet and ‘weird’ dances, Taylor keeps the dancer from dancing clichés. They will be able to adapt to different styles.”