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Thoughts on a Modern Dance Master: Paul Taylor (The Nation)

I recently wrote an essay for The Nation on Paul Taylor and his place in the modern-dance canon. Here is a link.
And a short excerpt:

“‘I can sometimes sense certain things…it’s hard to explain. It started very early, when I was a child—I moved schools a lot and lived in a lot of places and learned very quickly how to sense who was the class bully.’ So says Paul Taylor in a soft, languorous voice, after a pause. Any conversation with the 82-year-old choreographer—who lives in splendid isolation in an old house on the North Fork of Long Island for all but a few months of the year, when he is making new dances at the studios of the Paul Taylor Dance Company on Manhattan’s Lower East Side—is a bit like a game of hide-and-seek. He is gentlemanly and friendly, but not easy to draw out.”

Pacific Northwest Ballet Deconstructs Balanchine (Faster Times)

Peter Boal and six dancers came to Works and Process, as they have a few times over the last year or so, bringing an illuminating lecture-demonstration on Balanchine’s tweaks to his own ballets. Here’s a link to my piece for The Faster Times.

And a short excerpt:

“One of the most effective devices used by Boal at the lect-dem was that of having two dancers, side by side, performing the same phrases of music, in two slightly different versions. That way, one could truly see—in the starkest terms—the shifts in emphasis, nuance, or in overall feel. The most striking transformation, at least to my eye, was in the “Melancholic” male solo from The Four Temperaments, danced here by Benjamin Griffiths (old version) and Matthew Renko (newer version).”

Water Nymph

This water nymph, in the entrance hall of the Museo de Arte Decorativa in Buenos Aires, made me think of many an underwater ballet, from Ondine to Ballo della Regina

Why Criticism Matters

Criticism is important, Daniel Mendelsohn argues here, because it helps us to hone our thinking about art. And implicitly argues for its importance.

He writes:

“By dramatizing their own thinking on the page, by revealing the basis of their judgments and letting you glimpse the mechanisms by which they exercised their (individual, personal, quirky) taste, all these critics were, necessarily, implying that you could arrive at your own, quite different judgments—that a given work could operate on your own sensibility in a different way. What I was really learning from those critics each week was how to think. How to think (we use the term so often that we barely realize what we’re saying) critically—which is to say, how to think like a critic, how to judge things for myself. To think is to make judgments based on knowledge: period.”