What My Teacher Taught Me: Paul Taylor's Michael Novak

Novak, jumping, Taylor's Arden Court

After having quit dance in his early 20s, frustrated by injury, Michael Novak began to feel the itch to return. Three teachers were instrumental in his cautious comeback: ballet instructor Anna Lederfeind; Joe Williams, a teacher of the Delsarte method; and Katie Glasner, a professor at Barnard College. Today, Novak is a dancer with the Paul Taylor Dance Company.

“Anna took me back to the basics of ballet—how to plié correctly, how to engage the proper muscles. It was very humbling, to be in your early 20s and have someone telling you, ‘No, no, no. You’re rolling your feet.’ Joe is a specialist in the Delsarte method, which lays out a system for gesture. Working with him provided me an emotional context to view movement: What can a tendu mean? What can a bourrée mean? With Katie, I had a space to try and integrate the things I was learning from Joe and Anna. And Katie never hesitated to tell me what I needed to hear, rather than what I wanted to hear.”

The Taylor company performs at the American College Dance Festival in Durham, North Carolina, tonight and tomorrow.

Photo by Paul B. Goode, courtesy of the Paul Taylor Dance Company

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