Paul Taylor

Paul Taylor. Jack Mitchell

An American choreographer of the 20th century, Paul Taylor is considered by many to be the greatest living choreographer. After 60 years as Artistic Director of the Paul Taylor Dance Company, he blazed he established an institutional home for the art form in 2014: Paul Taylor’s American Modern Dance. He continues to present modern dances of the past and present alongside his own works at Lincoln Center and other preeminent venues throughout the world.

He also commissions a new generation of choreographers to make dances on his own company to ensure that modern dance flourishes long into the future.

Early Life of Paul Taylor

Paul Taylor was born in 1930 in Wilkinsburg, Pennsylvania. He experienced a lonely childhood, as he was often separated from his parents. He attended Syracuse University, where he had received scholarships for both swimming and painting, but soon decided to take up dancing at the Juilliard School and the American Dance Festival at Connecticut College. In 1952, he won a scholarship to the American Dance Festival. He caught the eye of Martha Graham, who invited him to join the Martha Graham Dance Company. He also danced for several other great modern choreographers, including Merce Cunningham and George Balanchine.

The Paul Taylor Dance Company

In 1954, Paul Taylor founded his own dance company. The Paul Taylor Dance Company has a long and distinguished history, having performed in more than 500 cities in 62 countries.

Still today, the company spends much of the performance season touring in American cities. Many famous dancers have emerged from the company including Twyla Tharp, Laura Dean and Dan Wagoner. Taylor has choreographed more than 90 dances for his company.

Dance Expression of Paul Taylor

To distinguish his choreography, Paul Taylor incorporates everyday gestures rather than dance moves.

Through his body language, he is able to convey his emotions and imagination. Taylor's masterpieces are known for their wit, warmth, musicality, and excitement. His works tend to be about people, focusing on their feelings and individual interactions with others. One of his most famous works, "Esplanade," is set to music by Johann Sebastian Bach. Taylor choreographed the famous piece upon receiving a contribution from the National Endowment for the Arts.

Paul Taylor Continues to Inspire

Paul Taylor wrapped up his years of performing during the 1970s. His contributions to modern dance remain immeasurable. Now approaching his 80s, Taylor continues to inspire people and dancers throughout the world. Although he no longer dances himself, Taylor remains devoted to directing his company and teaching others the beauty and rigors of dance.

He has received several important honors given to artists in the United States. In 1992 he was a recipient of the Kennedy Center Honors and received an Emmy Award for Speaking in Tongues, produced by WNET/New York the previous year. He was awarded the National Medal of Arts by President Clinton in 1993. In 1995 he received the Algur H. Meadows Award for Excellence in the Arts and was named one of 50 prominent Americans honored in recognition of their outstanding achievement by the Library of Congress’s Office of Scholarly Programs.

He is the recipient of three Guggenheim Fellowships and honorary Doctor of Fine Arts degrees from California Institute of the Arts, Connecticut College, Duke University, The Juilliard School, Skidmore College, the State University of New York at Purchase, Syracuse University and Adelphi University. Awards for lifetime achievement include a MacArthur Foundation Fellowship – often called the “genius award” – and the Samuel H. Scripps American Dance Festival Award. Other awards include the New York State Governor’s Arts Award and the New York City Mayor’s Award of Honor for Art and Culture.