92NY presents Paul Taylor Dance Company

92NY presents Paul Taylor Dance Company

The 92nd Street Y, New York’s 150th anniversary dance season closes with the Paul Taylor Dance Company in a program celebrating the past, present, and future of modern dance, and the company’s relationship with 92NY that had a profound impact on dance history. The performance is in person in Kaufmann Concert Hall on Monday, May 13 at 8 pm and is available online for 72 hours from noon on May 14.

In 1957, 92NY created a space for young choreographer Paul Taylor to present his first full evening of choreography in its Kaufmann Concert Hall; 92NY had long been welcoming and supporting American contemporary dance artists in developing their work. That performance saw the premiere of Seven New Dances, which posed provocative and radical questions about what modern dance was and could become. It also inspired one of the most famous published reviews in dance history – four inches of blank space – that catapulted the young Taylor toward fame and infamy for his avant-garde take on human movement. This groundbreaking performance has also been hailed by many as the underpinning for the later creative of Taylor’s 1975 masterpiece, Esplanade.

In celebration of their relationship’s lasting impact, the Paul Taylor Dance Company returns to the stage where it all began, for 92NY’s 150th anniversary. Hosted by Broadway and film icon Alan Cumming, the evening will open with an eye on the future with an exclusive preview of Resident Choreographer Lauren Lovette’s newest creations. Then, after 67 years the story of Seven New Dances will be brought to the Kaufman stage once again. Reading from Paul Taylor’s autobiography Private Domain, Alan Cumming will bring Taylor’s voice to life, narrating the creation of – and the audience’s reaction to – the premiere of Seven New Dances. Excerpts from five of the original seven dances will be reconstructed for this special evening, performed by the Taylor Company and special guests, including New York City Ballet Principal Adrian Danchig-Waring, Alicia Graf Mack and Damian Woetzel. The evening closes with Esplanade, finding its way home to 92NY for the first time.

The evening also honors Juilliard and NYCB’s relationship to Paul Taylor. With NYCB’s Adrian Danchig-Waring, Juilliard’s Alicia Graf Mack, and Damian Woetzel’s long-standing relationship with both cultural institutions, Juilliard and NYCB’s presence in Paul Taylor’s legacy—past, present, and future—will be engaged in an unprecedented way.

In 1957, Paul Taylor premiered Seven New Dances at 92NY, a series of movement and music studies in collaboration with Robert Rauschenberg and John Cage that sought to ask essential questions regarding “What is dance?” and “What is music?” Inspired by gestures, postures, and “pedestrian” or “found movements,” Taylor created a wholly unique performance of modern dance that preceded – if not anticipated – Judson Dance Theater. In one dance, “Epic,” Taylor performed a series of simple gestures for 13 minutes to the sound of telephone time signals. In another, Taylor and a fellow dancer posed on stage – in complete stillness – for four minutes before the curtain came down. Most recently reconstructed in 2021, “Events II” features two women in 1950s cocktail dresses shifting between poses on stage to the sounds of rain as a gentle breeze billows across the stage, catching their petticoats in the wind.

The 1957 performance became famous, not necessarily for its artistic momentum, but for its raw questioning of what modern dance is. While audiences left throughout the evening, it was the review by Louis Horst in Dance Observer that cemented the performance as one of the most famous in dance history: the review was simply four inches of blank space.

And while the nod to Taylor’s exploration (and minimalism) was noteworthy, little did audiences know that the notions Taylor explored in Seven New Dances would become the very foundation of his entire repertory, specifically his most beloved and iconic dance Esplanade.

Tickets for the May 13th performance are available here

 Paul Taylor Dance Company, Image credit Paul Taylor Dance