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"Paul Taylor: Dancemaker", a Film by Matthew Diamond
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Paul Taylor: "Dancemaker", a Film by Matthew Diamond

- Backstage with the Filmmakers: Offstage with the Dancers
1915 Kutztown Road
Reading, PA 19604
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The Four Oaks Foundation Presents
A Walter Scheuer Production of:
Paul Taylor: Dancemaker
(DVD Purchase Web Page) (1999)

A Film by Matthew Diamond
Production Sound Mix: Peter Miller
Assoc. Producer: Daisy Pommer
Edited by Pam Wise, ACE
Director of Photography: Tom Hurwitz
Exec. Producer: Walter Scheuer
Produced by Jerry Kupfer
Produced and Directed by Matthew Diamond

Paul Taylor Dance Company
552 Broadway
NY, NY 10012
Phone: 212 431 5562
(Taylor Dance Company Website)

Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower
July 17, 2009

(See Other Taylor Company Reviews)

This 1998 documentary about the Paul Taylor Company, in archival films, in interviews with Taylor and his Company, in voice-overs by dancers, in film clips of rehearsals and performances, and even in comments by renowned dance critics, was riveting from start to finish, especially for this Taylor Company fan, who has watched the Company grow through the decades and feels at home with a good part of its repertory. I was especially drawn to the revealing discussions and comments that illuminated the hardship of keeping such a non-profit alive and well, even before the current economic hardships. And thereís close-up footage that magnified Taylorís emotions and gesture, as he speaks of dancers lost to illness or sub-standard technique.

Dancemaker opens with Taylorís Esplanade, and I was immediately engaged watching dancers who have already retired (e.g., Patrick Corbin, Lisa Viola, Andy LeBeau), as well as Taylorís indefatigable staff and production specialists, such as Bettie de Jong (rehearsal), Jennifer Tipton (lighting), Santo Loquasto (costumes), John Tomlinson (management), and many more. After all, this documentary was filmed some eleven years ago. There are repeated shots of Taylor taking his signature onstage bow with his Company, and Iíve long commented on the significance of that demonstrative support. Taylorís fear of failure and anxiety over premieres merges into his wide smile at the curtain. The film has numerous excerpts of the making of Piazzolla Caldera, choreographed to the music of Astor Piazzolla, the incomparable Argentinean bandoneonist. This was a good device, as it served as a woven thread throughout the film, culminating in the live premiere at City Center, at the end of this 98 minute DVD.

Taylor speaks about the importance of team spirit and the value of emotional gesture in partnering, to illustrate human connectedness. He focuses on natural nuance to synthesize the intent of a composer, whether Bach or Bluegrass. The filmmakers contrast color film clips with black-white archival footage, as they span moments or decades, with the youthful Taylor seen in solo dance an the current Taylor seen in solo conversation. A cigarette is never far from this artist, a personal prop. Taylor and his dancers also stress the competition within the industry for Company openings (300-500 can audition for one opening), travel opportunity, castings for premieres, and union issues that thwart the use of live orchestras. Taylorís childhood as a loner, his boarding school life and emotional turmoil, all played out as a biographical mosaic.

Taylorís choreographic thought-process is mesmerizing, as Three Epitaphs and Cloven Kingdom relate to manís commonalities with primates, and Last Look is based on human angst and desperation. Clive Barnes and Anna Kisselgoff, New York dance critics, were featured in interview clips, as was Deborah Jowitt. Other clips turned to the mundane, such as Taylor dancers packing for the India trip, counting packable foods and emergency first aid items. These international tours could be grueling, and muscle pain was relieved with long showers and frequent stretching. Taylorís own psyche was repeatedly perused, analyzing his need to create onstage togetherness and touching, that often ends in surreal separation. And, speaking of separation, there were close-ups of Taylor and his dancers in eloquent sadness, speaking of loss of Company members to Aids. Once more, excerpts of Piazzolla Caldera are presented from the New York premiere, with audience accolades and Paul Taylorís wide smile. Kudos to Paul Taylor, his Company, and the filmmakers of Dancemaker for such an honest and transparent documentary of this renowned Modern Dance icon.

For more information, contact Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower at