+ stepsofAmeri ca
One is the knighted leader of a 50-year-old company, the other is the original punk ballerina. And together PAUL TAYLOR and KAROLE ARMITAGE form two generations of fine American dance. Words: Kelly Apter
‘ o you mind if I smoke‘." enquires Pattl Taylor. D easing into his seat at the Savoy Hotel tea—room.
Do I mind'.’ Yes. Am I about to object‘.’ No. After all. I‘m sitting with one of the founding fathers ofAmerican modern dance. A 73-year-old man who started his career dancing for the legendary Martha Graham before joining up with the equally legendary Merce Cunningham. An artistic director whose 50-year-old company has survived longer than any other choreographer-led dance troupe in the world. And a dancemaker who has created over 120 works.
So I don‘t really mind if he smokes — but it turns out to be a rhetorical question. ‘Because I’m going to anyway.’ he continues. lighting up with a smile. In truth. I‘m just thankful that the septuagenarian is approachable. charming and fun. After wamings from his London press agent not to ask any inane questions (who. me?) I was expecting a grumpy cunnudgeon who ate journalists for breakfast — and since it‘s only 10.30am I could still make a tasty brunch.
But. it transpires. Paul Taylor is an old-school gent. Modest in the face of compliments. eager to help (my 20- minute slot with him spirals into an hour and a half) and. but for sporadic bursts of hearty laughter. very softly spoken. Not that it matters - Taylor hasn't toured 60 countries. won an Emmy. received a knighthood from the
14 THE LIST 22 May—5 Jun 2003
French government and been the subject of an Oscar- nominated documentary because of his voice.
This is a man who talks with his art. and for the first time in years. Scottish audiences have a chance to listen. ‘Dance is a communicative form of speech.‘ says Taylor. ‘Things aren't always spelled out. so the reader has to work a little. It tells you something — you don‘t have to agree with it. but there should be a viewpoint. And the audience should have a reaction — even if it's walking out halfway through. at least they‘ve reacted!‘ And out comes that infectious laugh again. matched by a slightly mischievous glint in the eye.
Taylor‘s manner — tender one minute. witty the next — is echoed strongly in his dance. All five works showing in Edinburgh have either poignancy or humour. and in some cases. both. Cmnpuny B. a jitterbugging crowdpleaser set to the Andrews Sisters' wartime songs. is filled with laughter — until the dark undercurrent of battle rears its head. Black 'liwsduy focuses on the Great Depression which consumed America in the l930s (and into which Taylor was born) but
demonstrates triumph over adversity. A lighthearted spoof on l9th century manners. ()ﬂvnbut-lz ()l't’l‘IIHZ'S is one of
Taylor‘s liveliest works and Roses exudes serenity against Wagner's Siegfried Idyll. But it is aniwlwan Fire which packs the bi ’gest punch.
'THE AUDIENCE SHOULD HAVE A REACTION - EVEN IF IT'S WALKING OUT HALFWAY THROUGH'