About Modern Masters: Taylor & Wheeldon

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Boulder Ballet presents “Modern Masters” from two of the dance world’s most exciting choreographers — Paul Taylor and Christopher Wheeldon. You’ll be amazed at what ballet can be today.

Paul Taylor

Paul Taylor, one of the most accomplished artists this nation has ever produced, helped shape and define America’s homegrown art of modern dance from the earliest days of his career as a dancer and choreographer in 1954 until his death in 2018. As artistic director of the Paul Taylor Dance Company he created 147 dances, many of which rank among the greatest ever made. A trailblazer throughout his 64-year career, in 2015 he helped ensure the future of modern dance by establishing Paul Taylor American Modern Dance, which brings to Lincoln Center great modern works of the past, outstanding works by today’s leading choreographers, and commissioned works made on the Paul Taylor Dance Company.

Mr. Taylor continued to win public and critical acclaim for the vibrancy, relevance and power of his dances into his eighties, offering cogent observations on life’s complexities while tackling some of society’s thorniest issues. While he often propelled his dancers through space for the sheer beauty of it, he more frequently used them to comment on such profound issues as war, piety, spirituality, sexuality, morality and mortality. His repertoire covers a breathtaking range of topics, but recurring themes include the natural world and man’s place within it; love and sexuality in all gender combinations; and iconic moments in American history. His poignant looks at soldiers, those who send them into battle and those they leave behind prompted the New York Times to hail him as “among the great war poets” – high praise indeed for an artist in a wordless medium. While some of his dances have been termed “dark” and others “light,” the majority of his works are dualistic, mixing elements of both extremes. And while his work was largely iconoclastic, he also made some of the most purely romantic, most astonishingly athletic, and downright funniest dances ever put on stage.

Paul Taylor was born on July 29, 1930 and grew up in and around Washington, DC. He attended Syracuse University on a swimming scholarship in the late 1940s until he discovered dance through books at the University library, and then transferred to The Juilliard School. In 1954 he assembled a small company of dancers and began to choreograph. A commanding performer despite his late start in dance, he joined the Martha Graham Dance Company in 1955 for the first of seven seasons as soloist while continuing to choreograph on his own troupe. In 1959 he was a guest artist with New York City Ballet, where Balanchine created the Episodes solo for him.

Mr. Taylor first gained notoriety as a dance maker in 1957 with Seven New Dances; its study in non-movement famously earned it a blank newspaper review. In 1962, with his first major success – the sunny Aureole – he set his trailblazing modern movement not to contemporary music but to baroque works composed two centuries earlier. Darker, sometimes controversial works followed, including Scudorama, From Sea to Shining Sea and Big Bertha. After retiring as a performer in 1974, Mr. Taylor turned exclusively to choreography, resulting in a flood of creativity that included his signature work, Esplanade. In the ensuing decades he created such iconic dances as Cloven Kingdom, Airs, Le Sacre du Printemps (The Rehearsal), Arden Court, Sunset, Musical Offering, Last Look, Speaking In Tongues, Brandenburgs, Company B, Promethean Fire, and Beloved Renegade.

Mr. Taylor shed light on the mysteries of the creative process as few artists have. The documentary film about him, Dancemaker, received an Oscar nomination in 1999 and was hailed by Time as “perhaps the best dance documentary ever.” His autobiography, Private Domain, originally published by Alfred A. Knopf, was nominated by the National Book Critics Circle as the most distinguished biography of 1987.

Mr. Taylor received nearly every important honor 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. He was the recipient of three Guggenheim Fellowships and eight honorary Doctor of Fine Arts degrees. Awards for lifetime achievement include a MacArthur Foundation Fellowship – often called the “genius award.” Mr. Taylor was awarded France’s highest honor, the Légion d’Honneur, in 2000 for exceptional contributions to French culture.

Mr. Taylor’s final work, Concertiana, made when he was 87, premiered at Lincoln Center in 2018. He died in Manhattan on August 29, 2018, leaving an extraordinary legacy of creativity and vision not only to American modern dance but to the performing arts the world over.

Christopher Wheeldon

Christopher Wheeldon trained at the Royal Ballet School in London and joined The Royal Ballet in 1991. He joined the New York City Ballet in 1993 and was promoted to Soloist in 1998. He began choreographing in 1997 and retired as a dancer in 2000 to focus on his choreography. He served as NYCB’s first-ever Artist in Residence in 2000/01 and was named NYCB’s Resident Choreographer in July 2001. He has created productions for all the world’s major ballet companies including New York City Ballet, The Royal Ballet, American Ballet Theatre, San Francisco Ballet, Pennsylvania Ballet, Dutch National Ballet, Royal Swedish Ballet, Bolshoi Ballet, and National Ballet of Canada.

In 2007, Wheeldon founded Morphoses/The Wheeldon Company and was appointed an Associate Artist for Sadler’s Wells Theatre in London. For the Metropolitan Opera, he choreographed Dance of the Hours for La Gioconda, and Richard Eyre’s production of Carmen. He has also choreographed for film and theater including ballet sequences for the feature film Center Stage (2000) and the Broadway production Sweet Smell of Success (2002). In 2014 he directed and choreographed the musical version of An American in Paris which premiered in Paris at the Chatelet Theatre. The Broadway production premiered at the Palace Theatre in April 2015 and won Wheeldon the Tony award for Best Choreography as well as the Outer Critics Award for Best Choreography and Direction. Other awards include the Martin E. Segal Award from Lincoln Center, the American Choreography Award, a Dance Magazine Award, multiple Olivier awards, the Léonide Massine Prize for choreography, and multiple London Critic’s Circle Awards. In 2013 and 2015, his productions of Cinderella and The Winter’s Tale won the Benois de la Danse. In 2016, Wheeldon was appointed an Officer of the British Empire (O.B.E.) and was made an Honorary Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

Friday, February 21, 2020 @ 7:30pm
Saturday, February 22, 2020 @ 2:00pm & 7:30pm
Sunday, February 23, 2020 @ 2:00pm

Gordon Gamm Theater – Dairy ARTS Center
2590 Walnut Street, Boulder

TICKETS AVAILABLE JANUARY 15: www.thedairy.org or 303.444.7328

Photo by Amanda Tipton,
Costumes by Gene Moore in Paul Taylor’s Airs