Sunday, May 30, 1954. President Eisenhower was in the midst of a counteroffensive against Sen. Joseph McCarthy and his charges that communists had infiltrated the highest levels of American government. The United States, Great Britain and France were discussing an accord that would divide Vietnam into two countries, North and South. Gil Hodges homered to lead Brooklyn to a 5-3 victory at the Polo Grounds. And at 8:40 in the evening at the Henry Street Settlement in Manhattan, a 23-year-old dancer and five colleagues gave the first public performance of his choreography, a dance called Jack and the Beanstalk. While the dance soon faded from memory, the choreographer became a giant – the youngest member of the pantheon that created American modern dance, and one of history’s most celebrated artists. Laura Shapiro once wrote in Newsweek, “Short course in modern dance: in the beginning there was Martha Graham, who changed the face of an art form and discovered a new world. Then there was Merce Cunningham, who stripped away the externals and showed us the heart of movement. And then there was Paul Taylor, who let the sun shine in.”
The Paul Taylor Dance Company and Taylor 2, created in 1993, have traveled the globe many times over, bringing Mr. Taylor’s ever-burgeoning repertoire to theaters and venues of every size and description in cultural capitals, on college campuses and in rural communities – and often to places modern dance had never been before. The Taylor Company has performed in more than 540 cities in 64 countries, representing the United States at arts festivals in more than 40 countries and touring extensively under the aegis of the U.S. Department of State. In 1997 the Company toured throughout India in celebration of that nation’s 50th Anniversary. Its 1999 engagement in Chile was named the Best International Dance Event of 1999 by the country’s Art Critics’ Circle. In the summer of 2001 the Company toured in the People’s Republic of China and performed in six cities, four of which had never seen American modern dance before. In the spring of 2003 the Company mounted an award-winning four-week, seven-city tour of the United Kingdom. The Company’s performances in China in November 2007 mark its fourth tour there. While continuing to garner international acclaim, the Paul Taylor Dance Company performs more than half of each touring season in cities throughout the United States. The Company’s season in 2005, marking its 50th Anniversary, was attended by more than 25,000 people. In celebration of the Anniversary and 50 years of creativity by one of the most extraordinary artists the world has ever known, the Taylor Foundation presented Mr. Taylor’s works in all 50 States between March 2004 and November 2005. That tour underscored the Taylor Company’s historic role as one of the early touring companies of American modern dance.
Beginning with its first television appearance for the Dance in America series in 1978, the Paul Taylor Dance Company has appeared on PBS in nine different programs, including the 1991 Emmy Award-winning Speaking in Tongues and The Wrecker’s Ball – with Company B, Funny Papers, and A Field of Grass – which was nominated for an Emmy Award in 1997. In 1999 the PBS American Masters series aired Dancemaker, the Academy Award nominated documentary about Mr. Taylor and the Taylor Company, which is available on home video.