Thoughts Before the Last Rehearsal


Wow, we have our final rehearsal in the theater this evening! I am amazed by how quickly this project has gone by; but I am even more amazed by how much we have all learned and grown. As I prepare for this last rehearsal before the shows tomorrow, I decided to write down all the main notes/corrections that I try to keep in mind while doing Party Mix.

Notes on Party Mix

Exaggerate arms during entrance and the part when am tapping Mariel’s hand

Remember the new spacing (Mariel starts on stage right now, so I have to travel more; when Luna, Sabine & I turn to travel back, we also need to travel)

Posing in the background –> keep arms up and strong angles; remember the head angle !! look statuesque and really strong

Background traveling (switching) step –> make sure to travel and switch head

Aleca starts pulsing before everyone does

When running to exit (& stopping/posing), make sure to lead with the torso forward

When running back on stage for the arm “swing/throw” cannon, run past center for the first one; don’t wait full four counts to run again for the second one (go sooner)

Arms linked pose àmake sure we are downstage right enough (I have to set that since I am the first one)

For the figure 8, make sure to make the jump powerful, strong arms, angled head, stay suspended/lifted in the air for a moment (same for the jump to exit the stage)

Entrance for guys’ part: start walking on stage after Mariel’s transition (5 steps!)

Arms for guy part are held and slightly open

Facial expression for guy part is a sort of “cocky” expression, not angry; it is humorous

The first set of eight pulses are more like little jumps in place rather than heel pulses; The second set of 4 are in plie, and open into second

Remember shape of contraction (w/ legs straight and arms out straight); jumps are in place, feet flexed & leaning forward

For the circle part: travel and stay behind Sabine so it doesn’t look like two separate groups; also travel downstage to keep the circle and not cut it off; remember the counts (8, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12; arm swing pas de chats are 8 & 4cts)

Travel a lot doing the hitch kicks right before the men fight scene

For the jump when exiting off the stage (after the women exit), make sure bottom leg also bends (in attitude as well) rather than staying straight

Men and women upstage partnering section: make sure to keep counting; make sure all poses are strong and statuesque; when hugging, men are holding around the shoulders; smile at partners during musical chairs

When running for the fight scene with Liam, make sure to travel upstage right; for the partnering leaps, lock arms tightly, pull him up when he jumps; look down and hold close when I jump

When the guys are standing with arms linked (during Mariel’s part), our hands are in fists on hips

When Mariel hits my hand, it flutters rather than getting thrown back

After we lift Mariel, the pas de chat’s are really big (feet flexed), & I look at Brittany

Paycheck entrance: legs are straight in jump, land in plie and straighten; the steps in the circle are sharp (make sure they don’t start to drag)

Strong party mix arms in the three poses as we move in on the circle

Last section: arms are thrown back, hug over partner; when we chasse keep the circle together; keep energy up, don’t look like you’re dying!

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

The Man behind the “Mix”


The process of creating this piece has been one that is intense, but definitely rewarding. During our last rehearsal we ran through the piece, and I was pleasantly surprised at the progress we’ve made, both in learning the choreography and in embodying the nature of Taylor’s movement. For the class we also had a speaker, Suzanne Carbonneau, come in and give a presentation on Paul Taylor’s life and influence on the dance world. It was truly enlightening to get a greater perspective on the man who has in essence created an entirely new vocabulary of movement sprung from modern influences like Martha Graham and Merce Cunningham, as well his non-dance influences in artists like Robert Rauschenberg. One of the reasons I enjoy dance is the history behind it, and the meaning that both the audience and performer can find within movement. I was really interested in Taylor’s shifted approach towards the nature of dance throughout his career- how he began as a newcomer who sought to challenge the established modern status quo with really minimally choreographed pieces, and then grew to create pieces that fit more into his style and were not necessarily movement for movement’s sake. In Party Mix, the movement is certainly interesting and wild and creates fun and intriguing shapes, but it also creates a space for imagination for the viewer and performer— what kind of personalities and relationships do we see when watching the piece? Everyone may have different answers, but that makes it all the more fun to do.

Form, Time, Space, Vision, Context, and Mickey Mouse


Today, we had the absolute pleasure of learning from guest teacher Richard Chen See. I was inspired by the care Richard took to structure the class as a true learning experience and survey of Paul Taylor’s style, theory, and creative repertoire. It was my favorite type of dance class, one in which I feel I exercised my mind as well as my body.

Richard tailored his teaching style to our perspective as academics studying how dance might relate to other fields and life in general. One warm-up exercise had us falling and rising from the floor repeatedly as we rocked on our backs, contracted in a “hollowed out” shape. He used this exercise to emphasize the inquisitive nature of dance. The study of dance applies not only to rehearsed steps in a studio, but to interpreting how people express themselves through body movement in everyday life. It was easy to overthink the exercise by focusing on the exact formation instead of simply the weight transfer from standing position to the ground and back up again.

Throughout class, Richard focused on five key words – form, time, space, vision, and context. He described time as both rhythm and duration. We learned that Paul Taylor would say “Mickey Mouse” to tell dancers to dance on the music because cartoon scores are composed to directly line up with actions on screen. Vision refers to both what you see and your intention. Space refers to how your body creates positive and negative space in relation to the room. Context refers to how the audience places a dance in their historical, cultural, and emotional memory. It can be conveyed through music, sets, costumes, facial expressions, gender dynamics, and much more. It can also be crafted through dance moves that evoke a specific era. We observed this in the swing dance moves throughout “Company B,” a dance set to the 1940s Andrews Sisters hit “Bugle Boy of Company B.” Taylor created the dance amidst the national consciousness around war during the 1991 invasion of Kuwait.

Along with the beginning of “Company B,” we learned the beginning of “Esplanade” and the male adagio, which Richard pointed out was quite rare for the time, from “Aureole.” Richard offered helpful tips on how to master the Taylor style. As a ballet-trained dancer, I have found it difficult to put more weight into my movements to achieve the heavier movement quality that modern dance requires. Richard told us to imagine the floor as soft and porous so that we sink under it, not above it.

I learned that Taylor’s style is influenced by the breath and intention of Martha Graham, the straight, parallel lines of Horton, and the curved shapes of Italian Cecchetti ballet. Taylor is so fascinating, in part, because of his diversity of styles. There is no one Taylor style. “Esplanade” is pedestrian while “Aureole” has much more form. Those with the impression that Taylor’s style is repetitive are likely only seeing the more palatable pieces that are performed more often. They probably have not had the chance to see more experimental and quirky pieces like Party Mix. After Richard’s class, I have a much more well-rounded appreciation of Paul Taylor’s artistic legacy. Taylor truly pushed the boundaries of the concept of performance as a whole, forever defining many foundational aspects of modern dance.

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

New Muscles


It has been four years since I have step foot in a dance class, and even then it was not very demanding. I have always wanted to dance, mostly because my mom was a dancer, so I have  dipped in and out of classes since I was little. I had competing interests and so it never fully stuck and when I got older I gave up on dancing because I figured it was too late to start. After seeing YDT perform last year, and being thrown into Dreamgirls in the fall, I decided to go for the long shot and audition. All that background to say that my muscles were wholly unprepared for what Ruthie and Amanda threw at them.

After the first class I wrote, “My arms are not equipped to remain in the air for more than maybe 45 seconds. This is what I have learned from our first class.” After getting over the initial shock I have come to really appreciate the way that Taylor dance calls for movement. There is a rigidity to the shapes we create, but the path to that shapes is often so loose. For example, we will swing our arms above our heads, very fluidly, and then pull one arm through to create an “s.” That “s” is specific and fixed. It should clearly create two half circles, one curved up, and one down. The style is so difficult because you have to find where to let your body just go, and where to give it a limit and a shape. I have found the biggest challenge for me is to learn how to have that “mind-body” connection unconsciously. I think dancers have the uncanny ability to use a kinetic rational instead of thinking through each step. That is to say that it feels like a different part of my brain is working when I know what I’m doing in class. I’m not going logically step-by-step, because then I get behind, or I confuse myself, and my body doesn’t move fluidly. It is difficult to explain, but the thought and the action happen almost simultaneously.

The study of movement is also very new. It is fascinating to watch Amanda and Ruthie study the old footage of Party Mix, go over the counts again and again, attempt it themselves, and then teach us. I’ve never watched dance for anything other than entertainment. Even when I was young and tried to recreate dances, I never asked why they were moving a specific way or how that specific shape adds to the whole story of the piece. Now that we can study the footage on our own, I am learning how to apply the critical lens I have used on written works to dance. It actually reminds me of the work I do in some of my theater studies classes. We will read a theory, but the only way to really investigate is to get up and try it. This is the same. Even as Ruthie watches the footage for the counts, she will instinctually start to mark it out.

I am very grateful to be in the room with all these wonderful dancers and I am excited to see what next month brings.

Framing of Movement


I am amazed at how Ruthie, Amanda, Michael, and their other collaborators have been able to reconstruct “Party Mix.” Thankfully there are multiple videos, each one providing a different detail for the work. The Hunter College video is a clear close up image, however the speed is incorrect and there is no music. The video from Lake Placid provides the movement to the music (mostly) and larger spatial patterns. While I watch these videos I do my best to track the individual dancers, to keep up with who is doing what, but once we get past the portion we know, I have no idea who is doing what. I’m sure once I spend more time with the videos I will have an easier time distinguishing among the dancers. I have already noticed that I have a better understanding of the decisions Paul Taylor made for “Party Mix” after seeing the Taylor Company perform last week in Fairfield, CT. We were fortunate to be able to see them perform, and two of the works we saw were Taylor’s choreography from the 80s and 90s. So while these works were significantly later than “Party Mix,” there were at least a few common themes that I noticed. So far in “Party Mix” and what I have seen in the rest of the video, Taylor will have one dancer or a group of dancers holding positions in the space, whereas a couple or one dancer will utilize the rest of the stage and engage in movement in relation to those groups. I saw this in both pieces we saw during the show, but particularly “Roses.” While not a feature of choreography unique to Paul Taylor, it was fascinating to see how he chose to use the additional dancer to create a scene for the more active dancers to inhabit. I am thinking of “Roses” in particular as the second part of the piece began, the dancers that started the piece moved towards the back of the stage and remained with their backs facing us while a duet was performed in the foreground. Seeing the low line of dancers in the back, totally changed my perception of the dancers’ lines in the downstage portion. In “Party Mix,” Taylor uses the other dancers as backdrops to help move the audience’s eye around the space and remember that the piece is about a party scene. I am thinking of particular when a group travels from stage left to stage right, while Carolyn and Paul are performing large jumps in the middle of the stage. The group travels behind Carolyn and Paul as their jumps travel them towards stage right. The group provides and interesting change of pace and draws a contrast to the height of the  jumps with their low hip swivels and shifts. I suppose then in both pieces the dancers upstage of those in the foreground are providing a contrasting level to highlight/enhance the shapes and lines that Taylor has created with the downstage dancers. I am interested to learn more “Party Mix” to see additional themes that are present in Taylor choreography and style of movement.

The Beginnings of Party Mix


Today we started with a warmup.  We started with extensions of the back and arms through port de bras.  While Ruth read we worked through contractions of the back and arms.  Some of the arm shapes are quite challenging, but really interesting. In all arm movements, Taylor’s style creates a half circle shape, rounded and held firm, or it creates arm positions with right angles.  There is the S shape of the arms where you start with arms horizontal, parallel to the floor and then bend one slightly up, and the other slightly down. This position can be reversed, or used with movement across the floor.  Another arm shape is the boxed arm position.  Back, abs, and arms are engaged to keep the arms in a right angle position.  Arms can face down, with the hands toward the floor, or they can face up towards the ceiling.  Ruth also mentioned that in Taylor’s work, all movements should feel like an extended version of your own limbs.  Rather like an extra phantom limb, your legs and arms extend beyond your body to give a fuller, more energized movement.  

After the warm up, we moved to across the floor exercise combinations.  This took shaped concepts from the warmup and translated them into movements that spanned the entire room. I very much liked the jumping combinations with the right angle arm shape.  There were also a few variations of the waltz step we learned that used the s-shape of the arms through movement. 

After finishing across the floors, we took time to learn some of the phrases from Party Mix, including Carolynn and Dan.  This was fantastic, as it took element from all of the exercises and put them into characters. There was lots of jumping and moving and shapes.  We are really starting to create a piece.  The characters all have their own personality, and each character has their own unique phrase. 

It really is fantastic to watch all of the piece start to take form.

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.

Over, under, & around


We are a week and a half into rehearsals. Movements that were new to me in the audition process–some shapes to superimpose on the body–are now becoming familiar, their method and generative force more clear. There is power in the Taylor style. The body extends beyond the physical, contracting with the abdomen perhaps yet reaching forwards with the chest, or sloughing energy as light form fingertips. I am tired but strangely there is a sense of ease in this fullness of movement, like stretching as you yawn, the body craves some extremity of expression.

The piece that we are reconstructing is more challenging than I had expected. In the old footage, the dancers are charming, funny even. The movement appears light. But putting the choreography on my body has not been easy. The shapes are frequently compressed into two dimensions. Far from feeling light, this requires stretching of odd muscles and awkward bending of limbs. The phrasing is also complex. As Ruthie describes, Paul’s counts may be square in one moment, and then counter to rhythm or melody in the next. There is breath and play within what is literal. We must think at times to go over, under, and around the music.

I am looking forward to the coming weeks. In the grand sense, I am hoping to achieve some kind of freedom in the athleticism and humanity of the style. In another sense, I just want to get my part right! To contribute to this process and enjoy as we go. Here’s to the going.