Paul Taylor, 88, a giant of modern dance dies


By Jocelyn Noveck

AP National Writer

NEW YORK

Paul Taylor, a towering figure in American modern dance who, in a career that spanned more than six decades, created a vast body of work that reflected both the giddy highs and the depraved lows of the human condition, has died. He was 88.

Spokeswoman Lisa Labrado told The Associated Press that Taylor died Wednesday at Beth Israel Medical Center in Manhattan. The cause of death was not immediately available, but Labrado said Taylor was in hospice care.

Taylor kept working well into his 80s, venturing into his company’s Manhattan studios from his Long Island home to choreograph two new pieces a year, and 147 in all.

“The works that satisfy me the most? They’re the ones I’m working on,” he told The Associated Press in a 2011 interview, while rehearsing “To Make Crops Grow,” his 137th dance. “It’s the work process that I like. Once it’s done, I want to put everything out of my mind. I’d rather forget it.”

The Paul Taylor Dance Company is one of the most successful contemporary troupes, touring the globe year-round and able to pull off an annual three-week season at Lincoln Center’s David H. Koch Theater. Taylor dancer Michael Novak, named by Taylor as artistic director designate earlier this year, becomes the second artistic director in the company’s 64-year history.

“Paul Taylor was one of the world’s greatest dancemakers, and his passing deeply saddens not only those of us who worked with him, but also people all over the world whose spirits have been touched by his incomparable art,” Novak said in a statement. “We are grateful for your love and support as we begin to carry on his legacy with the utmost fidelity and devotion.”

Audiences often appreciated Taylor’s newer pieces, but his signature work remained “Esplanade,” from 1975, an explosion of joy and athleticism, with Taylor’s limber dancers running, skipping, hurling themselves into each other’s arms like missiles and tumbling to the floor with abandon, all to two Bach concertos.

The pairing of classical music with a modern style of dance was one of Taylor’s hallmarks. But he also went far and wide with his musical choices, scoring his works not only with symphonies and concertos but ragtime, tango, barbershop quartet and even elevator music.

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