Playing the Taylor Man


From the first day of rehearsal to our performance, and due to several casting shifts, I have had the privilege of learning three different roles in Party Mix. The three roles that I’ve learned have been the only three male roles in the piece. In most circumstances, this would not be something of note, but Paul Taylor has a long history of distinctly gendered performances and performers. The idea of the “Taylor Man” is one that has been established by modern dance audiences since the early days of his company. One New York Times article from 1984 described the men in Taylor’s piece, Arden Court, as follows:

“Anyone who saw Mr. Taylor, not only broadchested but big and beautiful, when he was still dancing in the company, will have no trouble recognizing the basic body type in this group. The combination of grace and strength in these dancers is a given and for all their outstanding solo work, they are modern-dance’s best partners. Muscular and quick, they perform the kind of lifts, devoid of preparations, that ballet partners do not.

“And so while Mr. Taylor has spawned them – creatively speaking, let it be added – they also represent an even newer extension of his way of dancing. They know how to borrow ballet’s momentum, fluidity and speed even in the most unballetic movements that the Taylor choreography demands. And yet they remain modern-dancers, but the kind of male dancers that this art form has very rarely displayed. They are eloquently masculine in vigor and projection. Mr. Taylor has no use for the unisex dancers rampant since the 1960’s in modern-dance. His male and female dancers are not interchangeable. Nor are his male dancers in the background.”1

“Combination of grace and strength.” “Muscular and quick.” “Eloquently masculine in vigor and projection.” I will be the first to admit that these qualities do not come naturally to me, as a cisgender woman. Yet the opportunity to embody these qualities, to understand what it means to be eloquently masculine, is something that I was ever excited to embrace and attempt.

This process has been one of the most challenging dance experiences that I’ve ever had. I have never been much of a jumper, yet the Taylor men bound across the stage for the majority of Party Mix. This semester, I bought my first heating pad in an attempt to speed up my body’s healing process between rehearsals. I’ve been sore, bruised, blistered, scraped, and otherwise battered in my attempts to leap, slide, fall, and support with the tenacity of the men I’ve watched in videos and on stage.

Yet with great challenge comes great reward. The ecstasy of nailing a combination that was nearly impossible two weeks prior. The flush of running through Party Mix from beginning to end, collapsing when the music stops but overjoyed at making it that far. The amusement of overhearing visiting artists ask which role I was playing, as if it were so difficult to imagine that a woman could be performing as a Taylor Man. The pride of overhearing one visiting artist recognize me in the part immediately, a small moment that validated the blood, sweat, and tears that I’ve poured into this project and into becoming a more versatile dancer.

I was as surprised as anyone when I was first cast as a male dancer back in January, and I honestly didn’t believe it would be possible to do the role(s) justice. But somehow I made it work, and today, I feel nothing but gratitude. Gratitude for Ruthie and Amanda in trusting me to rise to the challenge. Gratitude to my fellow dancers for their endless patience as I’ve failed and failed and failed before finally getting it right. And finally, gratitude for Paul Taylor, for if he hadn’t constructed such rigid gender binaries in his pieces, I wouldn’t have had the opportunity to break them.


1Kisselgoff, A. (1984, March 23). Dance: Three by Paul Taylor Troupe. New York Times. Retrieved from

Party Mixed Thoughts – Peter Mansfield


I have noticed that though it is a Paul Taylor piece, I can see the roots from his forebearers and teachers, Graham and Cunningham. This piece gives me questions about the intention and audience in which he was trying to reach because of the abstractivity. I am happy for the opportunity of being in this recreation but I have a hard time with Taylor styled movement. I am hoping to gain confidence with this type and style of modern dance.

Learning the other characters movements throughout the piece showed me the complexity and muscle needed to do the movement. Being able to work with Yale students shows me that dance is everywhere and we are able to continue our passion for this expressive art form wherever we all end up. So far, my favorite part of this Project is the diversity of the styles of movement offered by each and every dancer in this piece. We all interpret the movement differently because of the different styles each of us call our own.

-Posted on behalf of Peter Mansfield

Growing my Movement Vocabulary


I’ve noticed that each new technique that I learn impacts my movement style in a different way.

This is my fourth project with YDT, and I have found each experience to be influential in how I approach dance, movement, expression, and performance. When I first joined YDT, my personal dance style was limited to movements remembered from my formal dance education which ended when I was 13. My first year, our choreographers from Alvin Ailey – Renee and Matthew – brought expression, embodiment, and confidence into my dance. My second year, Lee and Saar showed me how to loosen my movements and find release in pushing through discomfort with the Gaga technique. My third year, Amanda, Courtney and Love from Urban Bush Women taught me how to listen deeply to music and how to bring myself fully into any piece that I perform. When I improvise, I find aspects of these three years coming into everything that I do. The openness of my chest, the fluidity of my spine, and the musicality of my movements all come from what I’ve learned with YDT.

Now that we are working within the Paul Taylor style, I am again finding my movement vocabulary shifting. Certain aspects of the style sit comfortably within my existing abilities. The S-shaped arms that we practice during class, the angular counterbalance of hips and legs in several Party Mix poses, the use of the sternum to both draw and direct attention. Many aspects of the style are still difficult for me. The jump sequences that I am learning for Party Mix, the smooth steps and turns across the floor, even the back and shoulder strength required to finish the full port de bras during warm ups. I embrace the challenges, and I can already feel growth in my technique from the few rehearsals we’ve had this semester. Paul Taylor shapes and styles are already entering my default movement vocabulary, and I’m excited to see how I continue to grow and develop over the course of this project.

Fall/To fall


During our Saturday rehearsal, Amanda wrote several words and phrases on the board that were meant as points of focus for the day. Power words/phrases. First on the list, she had written Fall/To fall, which was meant as a further exploration of the “tipping” phrases we had been working on leading up to that rehearsal. While spending half of rehearsal relearning the art of falling, I found myself thinking about Amanda’s choice of power words. Fall/To fall. Most of the other words she chose existed on the board alone. So why would she write both Fall and To fall? In my eyes, the difference lies in the agency. When you Fall, you lose control. If you Fall, it’s something that happens to you and there’s not much you can do except hope that you catch yourself before you hurt something. To fall returns the agency to the faller. You can decide To fall. You can plan To fall. It doesn’t need to be anything fancy, but To fall means to release yourself and trust that you know where the floor is, trust that you have control over your body, trust that you can work with gravity To fall without harming yourself, and trust that the agency To fall will give you the momentum to continue to the next portion of your movement phrase. We are learning To fall.

Telling Stories with Alvin Ailey and his Dancers


I like stories. I like to listen to stories, and I like to tell stories. One thing about Alvin Ailey and his choreography is it always tells a story. Whether that is the story of sin and redemption played out in Revelations or the story of suffering and triumph in Cry, Ailey always knew how to construct a moving narrative without speaking a single word. One of the reasons why Ailey shows continue to draw large audiences is because of this story telling—the characters draw the patrons in, and they return again and again to watch those stories unfold. As someone who grew up idolizing these dancers, characters, and narratives, I am humbled by the opportunity to explore these stories, and tell them as my own to our audiences in April.


It follows, then, that for me the most enjoyable aspect of this process so far has been developing the characters in our pieces. We are currently learning a section from Ailey’s classic Blues Suite, and I have loved the journey of finding and connecting to the women we are portraying. During each class session, I feel as if I have made a new discovery: how to use my gaze to express longing, how to use my outstretched arms to express desperation, how to show complacency with a tilt of my chin. Most recently, I began to explore how to “move as if your clavicle is smiling.” Under the tutelage of Renee, I can feel myself growing as both a dancer and as a storyteller. I cannot wait to see how I will grow in the final two months before our performance.


Working with Matthew was an incredible experience, mostly for having the opportunity to watch him craft a beautiful piece of choreography in front of our eyes. Despite the beauty that I found in his work, I did occasionally struggle with segments of the dance at the beginning of our time together. It is only with hindsight that I can begin to understand why this happened. I believe that I allowed myself to become too focused on the steps and the technique, and I didn’t allow time to find the soul within the piece. It wasn’t until one of our later rehearsals with Matthew, where we all sat for an hour and spoke about what heritage, diversity, love, and beauty meant to us, that I realized how noticeable it is when those things are missing. I won’t attempt to define these four words here, as that discussion could spawn several books, but once I began to search for those words in Matthew’s choreography, it began to make more sense both in my body and in my heart. I am interested to apply the character work that we’ve been doing with Renee to Matthew’s piece and to see how my interpretation of his movements changes.