originally published in 
In Conversation

Paul Taylor Dance Company | PAUL TAYLOR with Nancy Dalva

After decades of spring seasons at Manhattan’s City Center, this month the Paul Taylor Dance Company moves to the David H. Koch Theater, home of New York City Ballet at Lincoln Center. In anticipation, the eponymous choreographer answered some questions from Nancy Dalva.

Paul Taylor. Photo credit: Maxine Hicks.

Nancy Dalva (Rail): Wouldn’t Lincoln Kirstein be pleased! Here you are, opening in the house that he built.

Paul Taylor: You know, I think he would. He approved of my work and he actually helped me along the way, and I think he’d be glad that my company would finally be seen in that wonderful house.

Rail: He invited you to join New York City Ballet, yes?

Taylor: Well, it was Balanchine who invited me, but I think Lincoln had brought him to see me perform somewhere.

Rail: Did you see a lot of Balanchine’s work?

Taylor: In the early days, I did, yes.

Rail: Do you see any correspondences between your work and his?

Taylor: Oh, well not really. You know he’s classic ballet or his version of classic, and I’m not. I admire him, especially the way he worked. His rehearsals were so educational to me. Not a moment wasted.

Rail: Did you take his class during that time?

Taylor: I did, yes, occasionally.

Rail: Was it fun? Were you good at it?

Taylor: Not very.

Rail: You must have been divine in the jumps—halfway across the room before you landed!

Taylor: [Laughs.] My heart wasn’t really in it, you know. And I could get by, but I wasn’t a ballet dancer, really.

Rail: When I think of your work and Balanchine’s as being alike, I don’t think of what people are doing. I think of the paths they travel while they do it—the architecture.

Taylor: Yes, the patterns are wonderful, wonderful.

Rail: His architecture clearly comes from the music. Where does yours come from?

Taylor: I think from the music too, but also if there’s a plot, with characters, the architecture has to go along with that, and I sometimes go against the music. I don’t always follow it.

Rail: Do you start with the plot, the music?

Taylor: Oh, there are many ways. Sometimes it’s the plot, sometimes it’s just the music. Sometimes it—oh, many things. It’s never the same, really.

Rail: Do you think the plots are submerged or obvious?

Taylor: Some are pretty clear. Others aren’t. Intentionally.

Rail: Are any of your dances about you?

Taylor: No, never, I don’t think so. I’ve never wanted to do autobiographical dances.

Rail: When I think about your choreography—one dance, all of the dances—it all lives in a kind of continuous present, and also in what I guess I am going to call a “continuous psyche.” Where there are no barriers between id and ego and super ego, or between waking and dreaming. Is your mind at all like that, or is it just what I happen to experience with your work?

Taylor: Sort of. Except I’m not big on Freudian stuff.

Rail: What about Jungian stuff?

Taylor: No Jung, either. Martha Graham liked Jung.

Rail: Tell me about the new pieces that everyone who reads this will go see

Taylor: The recent one is called House of Joy.

Rail: Is that an ironic title?

Taylor: No, a “house of joy” is a whorehouse.

Rail: I get that.

Taylor: I see what you mean. [Laughs.] Well, there are all kinds of joy. It has characters. It’s more a pantomime than a dance, I think. There’s no real dance step in it. It requires acting, at which I must say these dancers are wonderful. We got it done in no time flat.

Rail: Why a whorehouse?

Taylor: Well, that was just the subject. Why? I think—I don’t know. It was something I hadn’t done before.

Rail: You’re going to get in trouble for objectifying women. You think?

Taylor: Well it’s short, so if they don’t like it, it gets over with in a hurry.

Rail: When you are making a new piece—any new piece—is it specific to those dancers?

Taylor: Well it is and it isn’t. I’m certainly aware of their strong points or what qualities they might want to add to their abilities, but I also have to keep in mind that if the dance is any good, it’s going to get learned by a whole other group. So there can’t be anything individualistic set in the choreography—not anything that’s important. There are some dancers who have wonderful quirks, but you can’t transfer them to other people because they’re their own. Everybody is his or her own self, you know. Nobody can look like somebody else, really. If the dance is solid it can stand a lot of interpretations.
Rail: You’re reviving Junction. What was it like to see it again?
Taylor: Oh, well, they do it very well. Junction (made in 1961 to music of J. S. Bach) was an experiment for me to sort of clarify my idea of what was musical in a dance, and I decided that I would try not just to go fast when the music went fast and slow when it went slow, but to complement and sometimes do the opposite.

Rail: Did you feel that you would want to do that again once you tried it?

Taylor: I think it’s affected everything that came after it in that way—the way I think of musicality.

Rail: So you’re proposing that in a dance, or a part of a dance, the movement is in counterpoint to the music.

Taylor: Yes, exactly.

Rail: Are you interested in the technicalities of choreography?

Taylor: Oh sure, you bet. There’s always some kind of flaw in things. But it’s good because then I want to keep going. If I did a perfect dance I think I’d quit, you know? It’s a goal.