After years of refusing to choose a successor, Paul Taylor, 87, has named his artistic director designate—PTDC company member Michael Novak. Taylor will make dances and remain the foundation's artistic director until he chooses to stop working, while Novak will continue to perform and focus primarily on the artistic planning and programming of the company. "I'm looking at this as an opportunity to be a curator," says Novak. "Rather than creating work myself, I'll create opportunities for artists to come together and collaborate."
While Novak's appointment was unexpected by many, his hometown-studio dance teacher wasn't shocked. "I can't say I was overly surprised that Mike had accomplished something like this," says Corrinna Lindholm of Bonnie Lindholm School of the Dance. "He's never seemed to have any limits. We are bubbling with pride at our studio. Nothing makes you feel like you've done your job as a teacher like having a dancer accomplish something like this."
Dance Teacher: What was your reaction when Taylor approached you?
Michael Novak: He didn't really present it like a question—it was more of a directive. My initial reaction was shock. I didn't expect this. There was no application—I didn't even know he was actively thinking about this. For most of my career, he's given me roles I didn't think I was ready for, but he believed in me and saw things in me that I couldn't see in myself. This was an even more extreme version of that.
DT: You started dancing at age 10 at a studio in Palatine, Illinois. How did those years prepare you for this?
MN: Because my teacher Corrinna Lindholm was a Rockette, I learned a great deal about how to create patterns and symmetry onstage. It's also something that Paul really draws into his work. He moves dancers from one side of the stage to the other masterfully. The uniformity and teamwork of an ensemble I learned at my studio has given me a mentality that I have carried with me to this day.
DT: Why do you think Mr. Taylor chose you?
MN: I think of myself as introverted. I tend to prefer to watch. I've always been that way, and I wonder if somehow Paul noticed how I would sit back and observe what was happening and take it in. I've just tried to grow as an artist and work on the things that would improve my dancing. Maybe that has something to do with it? Honestly, though, it's hard to ever know what's going on in his mind.