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Talking dance with an icon

"I get my energy, I think, from being afraid to choreograph, being afraid to fail," American choreographer Paul Taylor once said of his art.

art and culture Updated: Feb 12, 2011 00:10 IST
Shalini Singh

"I get my energy, I think, from being afraid to choreograph, being afraid to fail," American choreographer Paul Taylor once said of his art. When you ask him about it, the 80-year-old voice quivers ever so slightly. "Fear is important. It gets me in the studio. It's frightening when dancers look at me, telling them what to do," says the iconic dancer, on the phone from California.

The choreographer's work is set to return to Delhi after 14 years. Held as part of the Shreyasi International Festival at Siri Fort Auditorium, the performance will see three of his signature works: Arden Court (AC), Runes and Esplanade, that weren't part of the tour back in 1997. Taylor 2, the master's six-member travelling dance company, which will be staging the performances in India, was formed in 1993, and has been travelling the world since.

More than half a century ago, Taylor was one of the youngest members of the group that created American modern dance. At 80, the legend continues to be revered for his powerful, vibrant dance recitals that have tackled some pressing social issues — like incest in the 70s and rape in the 80s — through the decades.

In step with the world

The Siri Fort Auditorium will host the Shreyasi International Festival from February 15-18. The festival features the cream of dancer from genres as diverse as ballet, Flamenco, Kuchipudi and contemporary.
On February 15, Nataliya Kasatkina and Vladimir Vasilyov of the Moscow Classical Ballet troupe perform
Swan Lake and Don Quixote
The next day, February 16, will see a Flamenco performance by Spanish artiste Jose Parcel
Watch the whirling dervishes from the Istanbul dance Ensemble and a Kuchipudi performance by Radha, Raja Reddy and troupe on February 17
On February 18, the Taylor 2 Dance Company renders a less-structured avatar of ballet

Taylor says the lexicon of modern dance has evolved. "Dance is not about rape or incest but about humanity. Every generation engages with issues that are important to them, we did the same." For instance, AC, inspired by William Boyce's music, explores a place where people come together. At the same time it's about courtship. "It's a happy dance. I hope the audience don't come for 'a story' or analyse it, and just feel something and enjoy it," he says. Runes is not as cheerful, as it deals with existential issues: "How we are as a society and exist together." Esplanade is a happy-sad mix; "It's about humanity and being alive," he explains.

A loner childhood left Taylor a keen observer. "I didn't have too many friends, so I made friends with nature. People are like animals just that they have a different style of movement."

Indian dances intrigue him. Taylor last toured India in 1997 where an Indian friend helped him incorporate Indian dances in his work. "The detailed hand and footwork is exciting."

What inspires him?