Paul Taylor

Paul Taylor was widely hailed as one of the great masters of modern dance, and his career intersected the history of Jacob’s Pillow at key points throughout the sixty years that followed his debut in 1954. In the 2011 documentary, Never Stand Still, he reminisced about that initial visit as a member of the Pearl Lang Dance Company as well as his company’s 1964 Pillow debut, which coincided with the 50th Anniversary Celebration of Pillow founder Ted Shawn and Ruth St. Denis. Another notable feature of his company’s 1964 Pillow engagement was that it marked the professional debut of a young Twyla Tharp. The Paul Taylor Dance Company would go on to sixteen more Pillow seasons during Taylor’s lifetime, and he was often on hand to engage in PillowTalks and other activities.

There are a number of “firsts” associated with Taylor at the Pillow, starting with the Paul Taylor Workshops in The School at Jacob’s Pillow in 1982, 1983, and 1996—the Pillow’s first educational programs to be devoted to a single choreographer. Taylor’s second company, known as Taylor 2, made its world debut at the Pillow in 1993 and returned for a residency in 1996. In 2000, both companies appeared simultaneously in the Pillow’s two indoor theaters, marking the first and only time that both venues have been given over to the same choreographer. Also in 2000, in honor of Taylor’s 70th birthday, the Pillow mounted the first exhibition of Taylor’s work as a visual artist, showing his collages of found objects in a show entitled Assemblages.

In addition to the training programs devoted solely to Taylor’s work, his technique and repertory have figured strongly in the School’s curriculum during eight different summers between 1991 and 2006. Another link is provided by more than a dozen former Pillow students who have gone on to dance with the Taylor Company, including such stalwarts as Christopher Gillis, Linda Kent, and Victoria Uris.

After launching his performing career in the companies of Merce Cunningham and Martha Graham in the 1950s, he pushed the boundaries of modern dance as he began creating his own works in 1954. But he long since became known as one of his chosen discipline’s most accomplished and artful crowd-pleasers, with such milestones as Aureole and Esplanade serving as an “invitation to the dance” for generations. With his company poised to continue well into the future under Michael Novak, a director he himself hand-picked, Taylor died in August 2018 at age 88.
Source of Biography
Written by Norton Owen for Jacob's Pillow Remembers.
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