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Francie Huber @ Paul Taylor

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i saw a documentary on paul taylor co, on ovation yesterday (via foxtel). i was struck by the sensual beauty in movement of francie huber. being lazy about searches, i wondered if any of you, who are familiar with the modrern dance content of this board, could tell me whether there has been any discussion about her before (here)?

thanks! :(

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There was, but it unfortunately got deleted -- we had terrible space crunches in our early years and nearly all the posts from our first three years are gone. Sniff. (another new emoticon).

Which is as good excuse as any to discuss the documentary, and/or Taylor's dancers, again now :(

I haven't seen the film recently enough to comment, but I hope others will. We used to get the Taylor company here every year, for three programs, but in the past decade we've missed a lot, both dances and dancers, so I hope that New Yorkers who have the luxury of seeing a full season every year will chime in.

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thanks for all these comments. i DID have a look around the site - although i confess i am not a paul taylor fan.

the documentary was quite good - about an hour and a half long, i think. significant excerpts were included, along with the same works in creation or in rehearsal, and snippets of the dancers commenting about their work.

relative to another thread we have going, at the moment - about ADs and the feedback they give, and whether or not they are nice people - it was noteworthy that one dancer told of how distressed he was, at being told by taylor, just prior to an important opening show, that he was not 'working' in the role, and taylor couldn't tell him how to 'fix' it. his distress was somewhat relieved, when another male dancer shared that HE had experienced the same situation, also just prior to an important show in a new role, when taylor told HIM that he was 'not right' in the role, and he didn't know why...these comments are cruel, humiliating and badly timed, to say the least. does anyone want to spring to taylor's defence? ...

just curious...

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Grace, do you think that's generational? There are similar stories about Balanchine. Or that he would offer a comment that probably made perfect sense to him but was inscrutable to the dancer.

I think 40, 50 years ago this was the way companies were run. You did what you were told. You were given roles, and you lost roles, and it was up to you to figure out why.

So when I hear these stories about Taylor, and Balanchine, and Tudor, I wonder.... how mean were they, really? If younger dancers are used to having someone sit down and "spoon feed" them then someone who doesn't do that will be criticized.

Perhaps in rehearsal Taylor was giving cues and the dancer wasn't picking up on them. Perhaps Taylor cast the dancer because he thought the role would challenge him, or correct a fault, and it didn't. Saying, "Well, Joe, I guess no matter how hard you try, you'll never be musical," won't go down any better than "I don't think you're right for the role." Choreographers and ballet masters often show rather than say. So it's also possible that he couldn't TELL the dancer what was wrong, but kept showing him -- which would lead to the charge "he was making me dance just like him." sniff

Nan or Leigh may be able to give specific examples of Taylor.

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You rang: In re springing to PT's defense: I don't think Paul Taylor needs my defense. Besides,I wouldn't care if he carried on like the mad lovechild of Cruella deVille and Atilla the Hun, not that he does this. You see, as far as I am concerned, anyone who made Esplanade can act however he must. (The dancer still got to dance the part, didn't he?). I'm not a dancer, I'm an audience member, and I go by results....

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I'm half with Nanatchka on this one that he doesn't need my defense. But I wouldn't try to defend him on this one even if he did. Taylor's a big boy, he can defend himself and he's not a perfect angel. There's a good chance this fascinates him; so much of his work can be divided almost dualistically into dark and light. I got the feeling though, from whom he chose to work with that he had at least chosen dancers who could weather the outbursts when he vented his spleen. Even Jill Echo handled the entire incident of her firing being in the original cut of the film (it's not on my video copy) with real poise. There aren't the tales whispered of people destroyed by him that there are with some other choreographers. (Or they may just have never gotten to my ears). It could also be that ballet dancers may be more vulnerable than modern dancers - the stereotype in modern is that a new company and repertory is born out of conflict and rebellion. In an institutional structure like many ballet companies, that sort of rebellion comes with a higher risk. Interestingly, as modern companies get older, they become more institutional in structure as well, and at that point, I think the dancers hired are more docile also.

All that being said, I know Taylor from his work alone, and that's something I think very highly of.

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interesting responses.

alexandra - i *HOPE* its 'generational' - but i kind of doubt it - still - i don't know, as i am no longer in the rehearsal/company situation, to observe.

nanatchka seems to have a very different view (to me), regarding the issue of nice person/humanitarian AND/OR artist/creative genius (as we are discussing in another thread). so i will try to leave that to the other thread.

leigh seems to veer in the same direction...although i don't fully understand what you are saying, leigh, about modern dance companies 'vs.' ballet companies. i have seen the same (bad) behaviour from choreographers (BIG ones) in ballet companies, large and small. could you spell it outa bit more, in simple words for the dummy?


in fact, i have seen far less of it in modern dance companies, come to think of it...but maybe that's just because i have less experience within any dedicated modern companies - and none within any MAJOR modern companies like taylor's.

i suppose maybe that's why it surprised me a little - that i tend to expect modern dance companies to be more egalitarian/adult in interactions (because tha has been my experience). probable reasons: in my experience, they often have more mature dancers than ballet companies - and, as you say, come from a 'spirit' of 'rebellion', with less heirarchy/more of a team ethic and (often) more intellectualisation going on - leading to more respect for the dancer as a whole person, rather than just a moving machine.

getting back to alexandra's points: i don't personally feel that such a comment is EVER OK, just before a dancer goes onstage - no matter what effect it is designed to achieve, and no matter whether it happens to, in the end, result in a better performance, or not. but it looks like nanatchka (and maybe leigh) and i would be poles apart on that one - back to the other thread!


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Hi Grace!

What I have noticed, in a few of the major American modern dance companies is that as they (and their founders) get older, it becomes impossible for them to keep their egalitarian feel. The director is no longer among equals; s/he is working with people half a century younger. At that point, they start to seem more in their dealings with the dancers like ballet companies or other "institutions" rather than collectives.

Explaining my other point a bit further, I remember that incident in the film and I wouldn't try to defend it. It was probably an outburst from nerves, and not done to be constructive in any way. Taylor was blowing off steam, and his original director, Martha Graham, had her own unorthodox coping mechanisms I believe. My only point was though it certainly wasn't constructive, it didn't seem to be meant to be destructive; most company members seemed to understand it for what it was, nerves.

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just doing a bit of a search, re francie huber, i found an article which says tharp chose her as one of the 6 dancers when she founded her 2000 group: "Andrew Asnes and Francie Huber are modern dancers who were members of the Paul Taylor Dance Company. The other four are ballet dancers...".


also, this seems to be a description of the actual video/film that i viewed:http://www.queerfilm.com/cinemaq/Film/00219/index.html

and this performance review highlights another aspect that struck me in the documentary

As he approaches his 70th birthday and celebrates the 45th anniversary of his company, Taylor -- like Merce Cunningham, the other great choreographer of his generation -- is in a peculiar position. He has a roomful of formidable awards attesting to his indefatigable genius, among them America's National Medal of Arts and the France's order of the Legion of Honor. Yet he can't pay the rent. The cost of his company's studio is about to more than double, and a recent interview reported him openly worrying about this and hoping people would "help." Because of budget constraints, his company has capitulated to the use of canned music, which does a serious disservice to both performers and audience. His valiant dancers make a living wage but hardly one commensurate with their prodigious talents and effort.
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nanatchka, unless i am reading the quote too vaguely, it seems to me it just calls cunningham and taylor 'same generation' - certainly not tharp. maybe its just a not-too-thoughtful writer - or written in a hurry! or maybe it depends where you're looking from. if this is someone quite young, maybe THEY think of (tharp ?and...) taylor, limon, cunningham, graham AND humphrey as 'the earlier generation'! ;)

i agree with you, though, of course. :P

i had forgotten tharp's dancing history, so that's interesting info - thanks for that.

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