Paul Tay­lor: Cre­ative Do­main

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PAUL TAY­LOR: CRE­ATIVE DO­MAIN, doc­u­men­tary, not rated, Cen­ter for Con­tem­po­rary Arts, 3 chiles

Over the years, the leg­endary dancer and chore­og­ra­pher Paul Tay­lor has gath­ered a lot of lau­rels; now in his eight­ies, he’s not con­tent to rest on them. Kate Geis’ doc­u­men­tary shows the master still con­jur­ing up ideas and dis­till­ing them through the bod­ies of his tal­ented young dancers, who cre­ate po­etry in mo­tion by ex­e­cut­ing phys­i­cally what he now can do only men­tally.

It’s a painstak­ing process. It takes, he tells us, about an hour and a half of re­hearsal to pro­duce a fin­ished minute of dance. He watches from the side­line of the stu­dio, look­ing like Fred As­taire chan­nel­ing Yoda as he ar­ranges his dancers in po­si­tion like an an­i­ma­tron­ics wiz­ard.

“The Thinker,” he in­structs James Sam­son, one of his prin­ci­pal dancers. Sam­son as­sumes the pose of the clas­sic Rodin statue. Tay­lor stud­ies him, then is­sues in­struc­tions, re­fin­ing the po­si­tion, sculpt­ing the pose, phys­i­cally mov­ing and bending Sam­son’s limbs un­til they re­sem­ble the im­age in his head.

We are watch­ing the cre­ation of a dance Tay­lor launched in 2010, the 133rd of his ca­reer. It’s called Three Du­bi­ous Mem­o­ries, and it probes the un­re­li­a­bil­ity of mem­ory as three mem­bers of a love tri­an­gle re­call the re­la­tion­ship in dif­fer­ent ways. “Ever see Rashomon?” Tay­lor asks, re­fer­ring to the clas­sic Ja­panese movie that ex­plores con­tra­dic­tory eye­wit­ness tes­ti­mony about a crime. The young dancers look blank.

They will fol­low any­where he leads them. They clearly wor­ship him, but it’s a dis­tant love, a love that knows its place. There’s a Cho­rus Line­like ten­sion as he chooses the prin­ci­pals for this piece, an ex­hil­a­ra­tion for the cho­sen, pa­tience among the rest, be­liev­ing their time will come. Amy Young, who is cast as the girl in the tri­an­gle, has waited 12 years for this. “You don’t get a lot of per­sonal time with him,” she says. “These dances are the in­sights we get to him.”

The dance takes shape, and the last part of the film is the pre­miere of the fin­ished prod­uct. Tay­lor re­mains vaguely dis­sat­is­fied. A col­lab­o­ra­tor ob­serves that only once in their decades to­gether, with his clas­sic Es­planade, has Tay­lor ever said, “Now that’s what I was try­ing to do!”

Cre­ative Do­main does not min­i­mize the drudgery and the pain of cre­at­ing a dance. It will ap­peal mostly to dance afi­ciona­dos; for the less pas­sion­ate, it would be like some­one not in­ter­ested in ten­nis watch­ing a doc­u­men­tary about Roger Fed­erer do­ing stretches, cal­is­then­ics, and drills in prepa­ra­tion for Wim­ble­don. The ge­nius is ap­par­ent, but the process is not for ev­ery­one. — Jonathan Richards

Mov­ing leg­end: Paul Tay­lor (back­ground) and James Sam­son

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