Taylor made

A legendary choreographer, bisexual octogenarian Paul Taylor brings his muscular, gender-bending moves back to North Texas

ARNOLD WAYNE JONES  | Life+Style Editor jones@dallasvoice.com

PAUL TAYLOR DANCE CO.
Eisemann Center for
Performing Arts,
2351 Performance Drive, Richardson. Oct. 30 at 8 p.m. $30–$60. 972-744-4657.
EisemannCenter.com

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Paul Taylor has been exclusively a choreographer for longer than he was a dancer, but at 80, he still manages to make art with enviable regularity. At an age when most people are rocking in chairs on a front porch, Taylor choreographs several new pieces each year. His latest, Three Dubious Memories, will receive its world premiere at the Eisemann Saturday.

“I don’t travel as much with the company — only if there’s any need for me to be there that I oversee. But I’ll be there,” he says of his impending trip to North Texas.

The Paul Taylor Dance Company has a lengthy history with the Eisemann, dating to its first season, so Taylor was happy to oblige when the center asked for something new.

“They have a wonderful theater — a great place to show [a piece] the first time,” he says.

For Three Dubious Memories, Taylor took inspiration from the music, though that’s not always how his creative process works.

“Peter Taussig wrote this contemporary, recent piece. Then I had an idea for it and worked out the budget. It’s not always like that — sometimes the idea comes first, sometimes it’s commissioned.”

Budgets and commissions? Like it or not, dance is a business as well as an art form, and Taylor is pragmatic about his longevity.

“I’ve always had good managers and wonderful, inspirational dancers, and a lot of luck. And I’ve always known how to cut costs!” he says.

That does not diminish his passion for his art form. Taylor began his career dancing for George Ballanchine, Merce Cunningham and the grande dame of modern dance, Martha Graham, all of whom inspired him and continue to do so.
“I tried to learn from them,” he says, though he hesitates to pigeonhole what modern dance even is.

“That’s your job, not mine!” he says. “It’s a very American art form, along with jazz, that this country kind of invented. It changes, it always changes. Each generation has it’s traditional way to see things; I think it’ll continue that way. But I keep trying to do thinks I haven’t tried before, though my main attitude hasn’t changed: To communicate with the audience.”

MEN IN MOTION  |  Paul Taylor, above, will debut a new work Saturday, but also perform his ‘Brief Encounters’ with same-sex dance partners Sean Mahoney and  Francisco Graciano, right. (Photo by Tom Caravaglia)
MEN IN MOTION | Paul Taylor, above, will debut a new work Saturday, but also perform his ‘Brief Encounters’ with same-sex dance partners Sean Mahoney and Francisco Graciano, top. (Photo by Tom Caravaglia)

At age 24, Taylor founded his own company. A lanky 6-foot-3, Taylor was tall for a dancer. Perhaps that presence informed his work as a choreographer, as well: More so than with many companies, Taylor has a reputation for casting bigger, beefier male dancers … although it’s something Taylor himself brushes off.

“I pick [my male dancers] not so much for their looks or their muscularity, but because of their talent,” he says. “True, I’ve never been wild about ‘mosquitoes’ because they look weak, even if they aren’t weak.”

Still, those decisions have imbued some of his works with a certain homoeroticism, especially when he pairs same-sex partners in his dances (including Brief Encounter, which will be performed at the Eisemann).

“I have not done a lot [of same-sex partnering] but yes, some. I like to explore all kinds of relationships — it’s the human condition I’m interested in. That’s just part of the picture,” he says.

Taylor himself came out as bisexual in his 1987 memoir, although he’s expressed ambivalence about sex. “As far as romance goes, I can forget it,” he wrote.

In his personal life, maybe. But onstage, the romance emanates from his work.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition October 29, 2010

—  Kevin Thomas