Paul Taylor grew up near Washington, DC. He was a swimmer and a student of art at Syracuse University in the late 1940s until he discovered dance, which he began studying at Juilliard. By 1954 he had assembled a small company of dancers and was making his own dances. A commanding performer despite his late start, he joined the Martha Graham Dance Company in 1955 for the first of seven seasons as a soloist while continuing to choreograph on his own troupe. In 1959 he danced with New York City Ballet as guest artist in George Balanchine's Episodes. Having created the slyly funny 3 Epitaphs in 1956, he captivated dancegoers in 1962 with his virile grace in the landmark Aureole, set rather cheekily not to modern music but to a baroque score, as Junction was the year before. After retiring as a performer, Taylor devoted himself fully to choreography in 1975, and masterworks poured forth: Esplanade, Cloven Kingdom, Airs, Le Sacre du Printemps (The Rehearsal), Arden Court, Lost, Found and Lost, Last Look, Roses, Musical Offering, Company B, Eventide, Piazzolla Caldera, Promethean Fire, and dozens more. Celebrated for uncommon musicality, he has set dances to Ragtime and reggae, tango and Tin Pan Alley, telephone time announcements and loon calls; turned supermarket music and novelty tunes into high art; and continually found inspiration in works of Bach, Handel and their baroque brethren.
During the 1950s Taylor began to bring modern dance to America’s college campuses and small towns as well as larger cultural centers, and in 1960 his company made its first international tour. It has since performed in some 520 cities in 62 countries. In 1966 the Paul Taylor Dance Foundation was established to help bring Taylor’s works to the largest possible audience, facilitate his ability to make new dances, and preserve his growing repertoire.
Taylor has received every important honor given to artists in the United
States and France. He was awarded the National Medal of Arts by President
Clinton in 1993. In 1992 he was a recipient of the Kennedy Center Honors
and received an Emmy Award for Speaking in Tongues, produced
Taylor is the recipient of three Guggenheim Fellowships and has received
honorary Doctor of Fine Arts degrees from California Institute of the
Arts, Connecticut College, Duke University,
Since 1968, when Aureole first entered the repertory of the Royal Danish Ballet, Taylor’s works have been licensed for performance by more than 75 companies worldwide.
In 1993, Taylor formed Taylor 2, which brings many of the choreographer’s masterworks to smaller venues around the world. Taylor 2 also teaches Taylor style in schools and workplaces and at community gatherings.
Taylor’s autobiography, originally published by Alfred A. Knopf and re-released by North Point Press and later by the University of Pittsburgh Press, was nominated by the National Book Critics Circle as the most distinguished biography of 1987. Taylor and his Company are the subject of Dancemaker, Matthew Diamond’s award-winning, Oscar-nominated film, hailed by Time as “perhaps the best dance documentary ever.”
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