Many presenters engage the company for activities that involve their community and include programs that educate and increase awareness within the locale. The Paul Taylor 2 Dance Company has developed several residency activities. Since one of the founding principles of the Taylor Foundation is to promote the work of Paul Taylor and increase the understanding and awareness of his work, we regard these activities as important vehicles for realizing this goal. While residency activities do increase audience attendance in a local market, this is not our principal reason for providing them. Residency activities increase awareness and appreciation of Paul Taylor’s work and the art of modern dance.
A master class is presented to offer a community’s dancers and dance students an instruction opportunity to experience Paul Taylor’s work. Taught by a company member, the master class aims to present Taylor style and a sample of Taylor repertoire in order for participants to encounter signature movements that have influenced modern dance as we know it. Each class can be attended by up to 30 persons and usually lasts between one hour and an hour and a half. The goal of a master class is educational. We have found that members of the dance community throughout the world are anxious to explore the various techniques and styles of dance that have shaped the dance profession. Paul Taylor’s impact on the field is indisputable. An understanding of that impact through participation, in addition to attending a performance can prove to be an invaluable experience. Dancers’ inspiration and enthusiasm can translate to career enrichment for the dancers participating, improved teaching and awareness within the presenter’s community, and word-of-mouth attention which creates excitement for the company’s performance and those that follow.
The Educational Rehearsal is designed to provide a presenter’s audience with the unique opportunity to attend the company’s technical rehearsal in their community’s theater. Throughout the rehearsal the Rehearsal Director presents a dialogue overview of the activities as they occur, answering questions about the company, the dances, and the technical production. This rehearsal educates an audience about the role that costuming, lighting, and sets play in an actual performance. Those attending the rehearsal are introduced first hand to the process the company undertakes in order to familiarize itself with the space and make the necessary artistic and technical adjustments in order to present the best possible performance. With the help of question and answer sessions between pieces, the Educational Rehearsal offers one of the best available supplements to the performance experience. It can be effective with any segment of an audience: local artists, students, families, contributors, or a combination of these groups. Depending upon theater size and configuration, up to 100 attendees are permitted to attend an educational rehearsal. The Educational Rehearsal is designed to be informative and interesting. By furnishing a greater understanding of the company’s touring and technical challenges, the educational rehearsal serves to further invest the audience in our performances. An Educational Rehearsal involves the local community and elevates the local appreciation of dance helping to ensure an audience for the future.
The Children’s or Family performance is an abbreviated performance consisting of two dance pieces rather than three. Before the performance begins the company is introduced by the Rehearsal Director. This introduction includes a brief history of Paul Taylor and his company. Between the two dances that are performed the stage is exposed so that audiences can see the technical changes that take place backstage, and in addition the audience takes part in a question and answer period addressing issues of dance, dance history, performing, touring, and Paul Taylor’s contribution to the dance community. Following the performance dancers in the company take part in a discussion with the audience. These discussions cover all topics such as the personal experience of being a professional dancer, to what it is like to work with Paul Taylor and perform his work. The Children’s/Family performance is extremely successful with students, families, and any target group that wants an in-depth look at Paul Taylor’s work and its place in the dance world. The format of these performances enables participants to exchange ideas generated by the dances immediately following their presentation. Audience size may vary; in order to insure that questions and answers are heard, Taylor 2 travels with a microphone. The Children’s/Family Performance aims to reach and educate audience members who might not otherwise attend a performance. Because of its abbreviated length and question and answer format, it can be easily adapted to a creative, informative forum for an introduction to modern dance, or a more in-depth examination for seasoned dance supporters. The opportunity for questions enables the audience to explore the history, movement and themes of the work and enhances the performance experience. It can be presented as a matinee or an evening performance and can be held in conjunction with other residency activities.
Pre-performance discussions begin with an overview presentation by the Rehearsal Director. Following this presentation, an open forum begins, moderated by the Rehearsal Director. Topics addressed generally include: dance history, Taylor repertory, and company activities. Pre-performance discussions have proved an indispensable tool for educating audiences and enhancing the performance experience. An introduction to Paul Taylor’s work and its history, as well as the pieces to be seen, accomplishes more than whetting an audience’s appetite. The pre-performance discussion provides them with information which leads to a deeper understanding of the work and the choreographer. This sort of understanding not only generates a more enthusiastic audience during a single evening, but also lays groundwork for a community of informed, committed constituents that can last for years. Although in principle the number attending a pre-performance lecture is limited only by the space available, because of time limitations we prefer to limit the number of persons under 100. A pre-performance discussion lasts 30 minutes.
Intended to be informal, the post-performance talk with the dancers provides an opportunity for the audience members to ask the dancers and technicians questions immediately following the performance. The Dancers and Rehearsal Director sit on the stage and field questions. Educationally, this forum can provide insight beyond what even the best lecture can provide. Invited participants leave the theater with memories of not only an inspiring performance, but also a personal contact that accentuates the positive aspects of that performance and deepens the participants’ appreciation of the work. Because the artists have just completed a performance, we must limit this activity to 20 minutes.
Professional Open Forum
Some of the dancers, technicians, and touring staff of the Paul Taylor Dance Company have been touring and performing for more than 15 years. The professional open forum provides a vehicle for sharing that experience with interested students, artists, and managers within a community. This forum is set up in an informal way that allows local participants and the company members to discuss topics of interest. The dialog usually explores, but is not limited to: touring experiences, the creative process in dancing and choreography, dance education and educational alternatives, career development; management techniques; and the condition of the performing arts in the world. The goal of the professional open forum is to dispel some of the mystery surrounding the business of bringing dance to an audience. In doing so, young people and those in career transition develop a broader understanding of the performing arts.
When Paul Taylor began his company 50 years ago, modern dance as we know it today was an emerging art form. He and his company had to work constantly to educate their audiences, and the lecture demonstration was an important tool. Recognizing the importance of continually educating an audience, the lecture demonstration has once again come into demand, and has proved itself to be one of the best mechanisms for audience development. In Mr. Taylor’s new lecture demonstration the Rehearsal Director, director of Taylor 2, acts as the leader. While the dancers warm up in front of the audience, the Rehearsal Director introduces the company and speaks briefly about its history, and Paul Taylor’s career. Then he explains why the dancers must warm up and leads the dancers in a more formalized exercise set to music which works each part of the body. This shows the audience how a dancer must be able to isolate each muscle group as well as use them in conjunction with one another. As the demonstration develops, the Rehearsal Director has the dancers perform a variety of steps, which emphasize Mr. Taylor’s movement vocabulary. Finally, the dancers present excerpts of dances in a variety of styles and tempos to illustrate the way gesture and movement become dance. The lecture demonstration concludes with a question and answer session with the dancers. It provides the opportunity to not only learn more about the demands of a dancer’s life, but to see first-hand what makes a dance.
Knowing that to reach children, the experience must be participatory, Mr. Taylor and Linda Hodes created an interactive workshop for student outreach emphasizing the athleticism of dance and significant interaction between the dancers and the audience. When possible, the company’s 13-minute retrospective tape is sent in advance, for the participants’ viewing. The dancers begin a dialogue with the students by introducing themselves. Members of Taylor 2 then will lead the class on stage in simple stretching exercises. Following these stretches the leader will take an everyday movement like a walk or a run, and ask the class to do the movement. After adding an arm movement or exaggerating the step, the dancers show how Mr. Taylor has taken a simple movement and turned it into a dance step. A basketball lay-up or football catch is an often-used example. A Taylor 2 member continues to explain Mr. Taylor’s choreography in more detail through the presentation of sections from several different dances, offering as much contrast as possible, showing how dancers overcome specific movement problems, and how very simple movement and gesture work together in more complex patterns to form dance. Between sections the dancers will talk with the students about their dance experiences. As a finale, Taylor 2 will perform a section of a dance. Though this activity was originally created for students, we have found that it works very well with parents and their children. Together they are able to explore something new together. Dance becomes a shared language and the introduction through the Taylor tradition enhances a performance immeasurably, for the family sees steps they themselves learned together.
Movement and Coordination for Athletes
Dancers are athletes. The physical training and body conditioning that is required by professional dancers is mirrored in the athletic programs of professionals in football, track and field, basketball, baseball, and many other competitive sports. What is sometimes overlooked in early training of athletes is the development of coordination and movement training that must accompany strength and endurance training. Taylor 2 dancers offer a class to athletes that focuses on utilizing strength and body mass in movement combinations that development balance and coordination – skills that translate to most athletic disciplines. These classes have often resulted in a side effect of fostering a new cross appreciation of the skills that the participants bring to the class.
Custom Residency Project
Since Taylor 2 was conceived as a very flexible company with minimal technical requirements, we are able to work with Tim Robinson and the company of Taylor 2 and create many unique residency activities that are customized for local community needs.