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Happy 80th Birthday Paul Taylor!

“I make dances because it briefly frees me from coping with the real world, because it’s possible to build a whole new universe with steps, because I want people to know about themselves, and even because it’s a thrilling relief to see how fast each of my risk-taking dancers can recover after a pratfall.” –Paul Taylor

Paul Taylor at 80

Today marks the 80th birthday of Paul Taylor, artistic director of the Paul Taylor Dance Company.  Mr. Taylor has been dancing and choreographing for over 60 years, enjoying a career that has fundamentally shaped the development of modern dance in America.  In honor of Mr. Taylor’s extensive contributions to both modern dance and dance education, and in celebration of such a landmark birthday, we’ve compiled a history of the previous appearances of the Paul Taylor Dance Company at UMS.

The Paul Taylor Dance Company has made 14 appearances on UMS stages since its debut performance in 1964.  But if you bought tickets to Mr. Taylor’s performance in the 1964 or the 1965 UMS seasons, when Mr. Taylor was still dancing with his own company, you wouldn’t have watched his work from a seat in the Power Center.  Although the idea of building a proscenium stage in Ann Arbor to accommodate performers like the Paul Taylor Dance Company was conceived in 1963, the Power Center wasn’t completed until 1971.  Prior to its completion, UMS actually built a makeshift, portable proscenium arch for use in Rackham and Hill Auditoriums when normal stage orientations in those venues weren’t suitable for certain artists.

Hill Auditorium, as it would have been for Paul Taylor Dance Co. (year unknown)

Mr. Taylor’s first appearances in Ann Arbor were actually a part of the Third and Fourth Annual Chamber Dance Festival, performed in Rackham Auditorium.  As described in the program for the 1966 festival, “In 1962 the University Musical Society inaugurated a ‘Chamber Dance Festival’ with three presentations within three consecutive days, of special dance programs in Rackham Auditorium.  An extended stage, constructed by the University, together with special curtains and lighting provided by the Tobins Lake Studios, made this possible. […] The audiences this year are the largest to attend the annual Dance Festival.  With this kind of encouragement and support the University Musical Society will continue its endeavors in the presentation of the finest dance groups available.”

The top ticket price for the entire series in 1964?  $6.00.  If you were only interested in the Paul Taylor performance, single tickets could be purchased for a top price of $3.50.  Just prior to Mr. Taylor’s debut performance, Igor Stravinsky guest conducted the Philadelphia Orchestra performing his piece “Perséphone” at the 71st May Festival.  1964 was also the year the School of Music moved to facilities on North Campus.

When the Paul Taylor Dance Company returned to Ann Arbor in 1975, one year after Mr. Taylor retired as a performer, the company performed as part of the Fifth Annual Choice Series – this time in the new Power Center.  Started in 1970, the Choice Series included jazz, international music, soloists, and dance performances throughout the UMS season each year.  The Paul Taylor Dance Company performance on March 12, 1975 was just under one year after the 150th Anniversary of the founding of Ann Arbor, celebrated at the previous year’s May Festival.

Mr. Taylor returned to Ann Arbor for two performances in 1979, another important year for both UMS and the city of Ann Arbor.   In 1979 the city of Ann Arbor purchased the Michigan Theater to keep the struggling venue from being converted into a shopping mall, and the 1978/1979 season was the 100th Concert Season at UMS.  The Paul Taylor Dance Company gave two performances in January of 1979, each with completely different repertoire.  The January 27th performance included his work Polaris; the program note for the performance reads, “The choreography for Part II is an exact repeat of Part I.  The only difference is the change of cast, music, and lighting.  An opportunity is offered to observe the multiple effects that music, lighting, and individual interpretations by the performers have on a single dance.”  Mr. Taylor also led two master classes in the U-M Dance Department that year, and returned for additional residencies in 1982, 1984, 1989, and 2004.

UMS is thrilled to bring the Paul Taylor Dance Company back to Ann Arbor this fall and continue to showcase Mr. Taylor’s expertise, artistic achievement, and contributions to modern American dance.  Many friends and colleagues of Paul Taylor have left their birthday greetings on his website.

Happy Birthday, Paul Taylor!