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Film documents creative process of dance director

Contributed To The Press • Sep 10, 2016 at 5:30 PM

Dubbed by Martha Graham as “the naughty boy of dance,” Paul Taylor is now considered one of the seminal artists of the 20th and 21st centuries. Since he became a professional dancer and choreographer in 1954, he has choreographed more than 150 dances.

The documentary film “Paul Taylor: Creative Domain” follows Taylor through the casting and production of his 133rd dance, “Three Dubious Memories,” as his work continues to tackle some of society’s most topical issues, including war, spirituality, sexuality, morality and mortality.

"Poems don't always spell everything out, you know,” Taylor says in one of the opening scenes of the film. “They leave room between the lines, and I think dance can be like that, too."

Mary B. Martin School of the Arts will present a free screening of “Taylor” on Thursday, Sept. 15, at 7 p.m. in ETSU’s Martha Street Culp Auditorium. The screening will be preceded by improvisational dance by the regional Mountain Movers Dance Company in the lobby of the auditorium.

Emmy award-winning filmmaker Kate Geis will attend and hold a Q&A after the film. A fan of the Oscar-nominated 1998 film “Dancemaker,” the story of Taylor’s life as an artist, Geis calls “Creative Domain” “the next chapter in documenting Mr. Taylor’s creative life.”

“We worked with cinematographer Tom Hurwitz, who filmed both ‘Dancemaker’ and ‘Creative Domain’ to cover new ground in this film, and that was Paul’s creative process,” says Geis, whose filmmaking career spans over 20 years and includes topics from “Saturday Night Live” to writer/artist Eric Carle.

“We wanted to make it the central story of this documentary. It is one that I think anyone who creates can relate to. His work ethic is very inspiring.

“He is a private person in general and private about his creative process, so the opportunity to make a film focusing simply on how he makes a dance was a dream come true for everyone who worked on the film.”

After more than 60 years at the helm of Paul Taylor Dance Company and now Paul Taylor’s American Modern Dance program at Lincoln Center, Taylor continues to create two new dances a year.

“He was 80 years old when we shot the film, and his greatest fulfillment was, and still is, time in the studio with his dancers creating new work. He is an artist who regards himself as a craftsman rather than an icon."

In 1993, Taylor added the six-member Taylor 2 to his legendary dance company, to perform and offer teaching opportunities in smaller venues around the globe. Taylor 2 will perform on Thursday, Oct. 13, at 7:30 p.m., in ETSU’s Culp Auditorium, also sponsored by Mary B. Martin School of the Arts at ETSU.

“With ‘Paul Taylor: Creative Domain,’ we wanted to introduce the public to the man who is the source of the work they will see when the Paul Taylor 2 company comes to perform for us at ETSU in October," says School of the Arts Director Anita DeAngelis.

“I think the film is a perfect way to meet Mr. Taylor,” Geis says, “to experience his wit, his humor, and creative energy before his second company, Taylor 2, comes to town next month. When you meet the man, you will get a sense of the creative force in the work you see on stage.”

Taylor, his creative process – the guarded and unguarded moments – and his work are all intentionally accessible to the average viewer, Geis says. In fact, Taylor calls his approach “blue collar,” the filmmaker says.

Despite Taylor’s down-to-earth approach, the documentary does have its elements of mystery and magic.

“Unlike many dance documentaries, ‘Paul Taylor: Creative Domain’ doesn't fetishize every aspect of the dancer's day,” says The Washington Post. “It zeroes in on a mystery. The mystery is how Taylor, one of the greatest modern-dance choreographers, uses a simple formula of people plus time to make a work of art that pulls you in like an undertow.”

“One of the pleasures of this film is its perfect pacing,” says reviewer Sarah Kaufman. “The percussive music is reflected in quick behind-the-scenes shots of makeup and costume-changing; just snatches of how the dancers prepare, filmed in close-up, so their bodies resemble abstract art."

In the auditorium lobby from 6:30-7 p.m., Mountain Movers Dance Company will set the stage for the film with its own form of visual artistry, performing “movement from both shared phrases we all know, and movement created on the spot through guided improvisations,” says Mountain Movers Director Jen Kintner.

“The improvisation is just to allow folks to see that modern dance is not only on big concert stages and created in big cities. … We will have structured improvisations that use that space, allowing us to interact with each other and to create new movement in the moment.”

For more information on “Paul Taylor: Creative Domain,” visit www.paultaylorcreativedomain.com, and for more on Mountain Movers Dance Company, visit www.mountainmoversdance.com.

For information about ETSU Mary B. Martin School of the Arts or this film, call 423-439-TKTS (8587) or visit www.etsu.edu/martin.

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