Margie Gillis dances the human experience. Undulating naked in a field of billowing grass in Lessons from Nature 4, or whirling in a sweep of lilac fabric in her signature work Slipstream, her movement is free of flashy technique and tricks, but driven and defined by emotion. "There's a central philosophy in my work about what the experience of being human is," says Gillis, whose movement style is an alchemy of Isadora Duncan's uninhibited self-expression and Paul Taylor's musicality, blended with elements of dance theater into something utterly unique and immediately accessible. "I want an authenticity," she says. "I want to touch my audiences profoundly and deeply."
Taylor with PTAMD dancers Annmaria Mazzini and Michael Trusnovec. Photo by Richard Calmes
A person's walk is like a fingerprint, according to four Paul Taylor dancers who are stepping on without their beloved choreographer. Taylor died August 29, passing the legacy of Paul Taylor American Modern Dance to Michael Novak, the second artistic director in the company's history.
"Human movement never lies," says Novak, who sometimes slipped into present tense when describing his mentor. "For auditions, Paul makes dancers walk across the floor in rhythm. The first time I auditioned, I didn't get the job. I was terrified, but now that I'm on the other side of the audition process, 'the walk' is telling."
Heather McGinley in Paul Taylor's Arabesque. Photo by Paul B. Goode, courtesy of Paul Taylor Dance Company
For 10 years, Paul Taylor Dance Company's Heather McGinley trained intensively in Cecchetti technique with Lisbeth Brown in St. Louis. Brown encouraged her to showcase her strengths.
“She emphasized that the technique was important, but to always keep in mind that it was a vehicle for expression. She always encouraged me to be myself, rather than try to be like any other dancer in the room. The girl next to me might be brilliant at another facet of ballet, but bringing out my best qualities was what was going to make me the best dancer that I could be."
Renee Robinson and Troy Powell in Donald McKayle's Rainbow 'Round My Shoulder
It’s Paul Taylor month! Not only is he featured in our March issue’s history column, but the Paul Taylor American Modern Dance’s Lincoln Center season begins on March 15. What better way to get into the Taylor spirit than to learn repertory that will be included in the company’s 2016 season?
Next Sunday, March 13, PTAMD and the American Dance Legacy Initiative will conduct a workshop on Donald McKayle’s “Rainbow Etude,” at the Taylor Studios in NYC. “Rainbow Etude” is a distilled version of McKayle’s larger work Rainbow 'Round My Shoulder, which will be performed at Lincoln Center on March 22, 24, and 26 by guest artists Dayton Contemporary Dance Company. The workshop includes class, a lecture demonstration and a screening of excerpts from a documentary about the piece.
Donald McKayle (DT, December 2003) is a choreographer and former member of the New Dance Group. His 1959 work Rainbow ‘Round My Shoulder, about a prison chain gang, is regarded by many as his masterpiece.
Dayton Contemporary Dance Company in Rainbow 'Round My Shoulder
For more information about the workshop, visit: adli.us. To check out PTAMD’s 2016 season, visit: ptamd.org.
Photos from top: by Roy Volkmann, courtesy of Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater; by Andy Snow, courtesy of Paul Taylor's American Modern Dance
During his first year dancing with Taylor 2, Robert Kleinendorst—now with Paul Taylor’s main company—quickly learned that Taylor 2 director Mary Cochran wouldn't accept any excuses.
“She gave me a note to correct something in a rehearsal once, and I fixed it, but then messed up right after that. After the run, I told her, 'I fixed the note,' to which she replied, 'But you messed up right after that.' When I responded, 'Yeah, I know, because I was thinking about the note,' she told me: 'You’re a professional dancer now. You need to fix the note and then continue doing your choreography.’”
See Robert Kleinendorst in the new Paul Taylor documentary Creative Domain, premiering at the Francesca Beale Theater September 11 at 12:45 pm.
Photo by Paul B. Goode, courtesy of Paul Taylor Dance Company
This just in: Former Paul Taylor Dance Company member Raegan Wood (DT March 2012) is the new director of The Taylor School! Wood created a children’s curriculum for the school in 2010, and she teaches all levels of students, while working on a K–12 curriculum for the company’s outreach program.