Paul Taylor is considered one of the most highly respected choreographers in the world today, and this documentary guides us through one of his works in progress. Choreography sometimes involves diagrams, but mostly it’s a step-by-step creation of every gesture, movement, pose, and configuration of the whole troop that will be performed. The choreographer demonstrates or tells the dancers what he/she has in mind, with some being very verbal and instructive, whereas Taylor is a man of few words and instructions, although he is mindful of every detail. The people around him talk about how he is unpredictable and full of surprises in his conceptualizations.
Another interesting trait the dancers and staff interviewed talk about is his seemingly instinctive ability to observe what’s going on in other people, particularly the dancers. They give an example of how he seemed to know a couple was dating, although they had not spoken a word about it to anyone, and he cast them as lovers in a production. Someone said these observations might not even enter his conscious mind, but still make their way into his creations. Taylor spoke about instances occurring frequently that seem uncanny, such as a woman getting pregnant after performing a dance with a baby in it.
Director Kate Geis opens the picture with a clip of Paul Taylor as a young man in 1966 performing a dance. He was over 80 years old when the documentary was filmed, so it was a fine touch to open the movie with him dancing. As shown in this work, he is a very gentle man who respects his dancers, looks out for them, and periodically uses humor effectively. He wants them to have fun while they’re working so hard. Smiles flash across his face easily when he is talking about his work.
We see him choreographing a work entitled “Three Dubious Memories”, asking the corps if they ever saw Kurosawa’s Roshoman (a film in which various men touch an elephant, after which, none of their memories coincide). Taylor’s work will be about a love triangle (Man in Blue, Man in Green, and Woman in Red) in which the protagonists’ differing memories of events are shown in dance. Taylor enjoys ambiguity, so viewers will have different ideas about how the segments end and how the dancers feel about the outcome.
Composer Peter Elyakim Taussig wrote the music for a ballet and sent a recording to Taylor who took to it immediately. Taussig’s electronic scores fit the material perfectly in mood and cadence.
A fine documentary showing a genius at work: Paul Taylor, choreographer.
Grade: A By Donna R. Copeland