Acclaimed Modern Dancer & Choreographer Paul Taylor Passes Away At Age 88

Paul Taylor, considered a leader and innovator of modern dance for the last six decades, passed away Wednesday in a Manhattan hospital.

Jack Mitchell / Getty Images

Paul Taylor, considered a leader and innovator of modern dance for the last six decades, passed away Wednesday in a Manhattan hospital.

Between his birth in 1930 in Pennsylvania during the Great Depression up until his recent death, Paul Taylor had a long life. Raised by a single mother, he grew up with a love for art, literature, and sports. But it was not until he began his college studies at Syracuse University that Taylor truly found his way to the art of dance.

He began to pursue dance and found his way to the presence of Martha Graham, one of the founders of the modern dance movement. She became a strong presence in his life, and Taylor began to study dance at the Juilliard School. Over the next six decades, Taylor would become a dance choreography icon and one of the leaders and top innovators of the modern dance movement.

Once he began his studies at Juilliard, Taylor truly began to blossom as a dancer and choreographer. He worked with Merce Cunningham as part of the Merce Cunningham Dance Company at Black Mountain College as well as again with Martha Graham in the Martha Graham Dance Company. He felt though that by the time he had joined Graham’s company, the dances had become too forced and artificial.

Paul taylor dances
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As his popularity as a choreographer grew, he began to lay the foundation for his own dance company by surrounding himself repeatedly with the same artists, artists he had grown to know, trust, and admire. Taylor had a life-changing injury in 1974 that forced him to retire from dancing, so he devoted himself to choreography full time.

Taylor went on to found the Paul Taylor Dance Company, one of the most acclaimed dance companies in New York.

He passed away Wednesday at the age of 88, reported the New York Post, in a Manhattan hospital of renal failure, said Lisa Labrado, a spokeswoman for the Paul Taylor Dance Company. He, along with Martha Graham and Merce Cunningham, were known as the top three choreographers of the modern dance movement. Taylor was the last of them, as Graham passed away in 1991 and Cunningham in 2009.

However, Taylor planned ahead in order to ensure the future success of his renowned company by choosing Michael Novak, a member of the Paul Taylor Dance Company since 2010, to be his successor and the artistic director-designate of the Paul Taylor Dance Foundation in May of 2018.

“To put it simply, I make dances because I can’t help it… Working on dances has become a way of life, an addiction that at times resembles a fatal disease. Even so, I’ve no intention of kicking the habit,” Taylor wrote in an essay titled, “Why I Make Dances.”