Paul Taylor Biography

(One of the foremost American choreographers of the 20th century)

Birthday: July 29, 1930 (Leo)

Born In: Wilkinsburg, Pennsylvania, U.S.

Paul Taylor’s name is synonymous with ‘modern choreography’ in America. Considered a leading choreographer of the 20th century, Taylor was among the last active members of the second group of America’s dance artistes. His radical choreographies were centered on romantic, sexual and comical themes. He was known as the man who launched a number of dancing talents. Some of his famous choreographies struck ‘gold’ and were hits with the audience and at times, sent audiences running amok to the exits. His wide repertoire of choreographies include Esplanade, Aureole, 3 Epitaphs, Scudorama and Speaking in Tongues to name a few. He worked with a number of artistes, including Gene Moore, John Rawlings, Santo Loquasto, Thomas Skelton, Jasper Johns and Matthew Diamond. He won many accolades and awards, including the Emmy Award and the National Medal of Arts. Despite attracting a fair amount of negative criticism for his works, he remained one of the most unflinching and the bravest choreographers who exploited a wide range of themes on stage, and is to date, considered an American dance icon.

Quick Facts

Died At Age: 88


Spouse/Ex-: Stefanie

Born Country: United States

Atheists Atheists

Died on: August 29, 2018

place of death: Manhattan, New York, U.S.

U.S. State: Pennsylvania

City: Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Founder/Co-Founder: Paul Taylor Dance Company

More Facts

education: BA American Studies, Yale University (1970), Syracuse University,

awards: 1992 - Emmy Award for Speaking in Tongues
1993 - National Medal of Arts
- New York State Governor's Arts Award

- New York City Mayor's Award of Honor for Art and Culture
1992 - Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Choreography

Childhood & Early Life
Paul Taylor was born on July 29, 1930 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, during the period of the ‘Great Depression’ in the United States. He was raised in Washington D.C.
In the 1940s, he studied at Syracuse University, where he was a swimmer and was also into painting. During his time at the university, he read up a few books on dance and immediately applied to Juilliard School.

He obtained a B.S. degree in dance from Juilliard in 1953 and had the opportunity to train under the legend, Martha Hill. The following year, he formed his own troupe of dancers and began to put together his first pieces of dance work.

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He joined the Martha Graham Dance Company in 1955 as a soloist, while he continued to tutor and mentor his group. The following year, he choreographed his first comedy piece, which became a huge hit called, 3 Epitaphs.

In 1959, he was invited by Balanchine to be a guest artist with New York City Ballet. He performed with his troupe for the first time the following year, in Europe.

In 1962, he enchanted dance lovers with the choreography of, Aureole, which was set to contemporary music.

In 1963, he choreographed, Scudorama, which was an ‘apocalyptic’ piece and was considered to be the first of his ‘dark’ pieces in contrast to Aureole, which was ‘sunny’. Two years later, he toured the whole of South America under the International Cultural Exchange Program of the US State Department.

He shot to both fame and notoriety after one of his boldest choreographies Big Bertha debuted on stage. The choreography was centered on the theme of ‘incest’, which appalled and amazed different audiences.

In 1971, he choreographed the piece, The Book of Beasts. Three years later, he retired from performing himself and decided to focus more on his dance productions with his troupe.

In 1975, he created the classic, Esplanade, which to date, remains his dance masterwork. The next year, he examined the true nature of humans under a sophisticated mask in the complex, Cloven Kingdom.

From 1977 to 1980, he choreographed a number of critically-acclaimed pieces, including Aphrodisiamania, Airs, Nightshade and Le Sacre de Printemps. During this period, he also toured the USSR and appeared on the US public-television network.

In 1985, he choreographed Last Look and three years later, he focused on the themes of marital rape and hypocrisy in Speaking in Tongues.

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He arranged another dance piece called Company B, which premiered in 1991. Seven years later, he focused on how people dimly conformed to authority in the heart-wrenching production, The Word.

In the new millennium, he condemned American ‘imperialism’ in the piece, Banquet of Vultures and brought out the theme of ‘feminism’ in Dream Girls. He also drew on heavy themes for ‘Beloved Renegade’, a work that was critically appreciated.

From 2009 to 2011, he focused on a very meaningful yet modern pressing theme - infidelity. He touched upon this theme in two of his important works, Brief Encounters and The Uncommitted.

Major Works

In 1962, he created one of his most famous dance pieces, Aureole, which was his first major hit. He set his trailblazing modern movement to a contemporary score but to a music composed 200 years earlier. This choreography became an instant classic and was even used for ballet productions by the Paris Opera Ballet and the Royal Danish Ballet, much later.

Awards & Achievements

He was the recipient of 3 Guggenheim Fellowships and a number of honorary doctorates and fine arts degrees.

In 1969, he was knighted by the French government as ‘Chevalier de l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres’.
In 1989, he was one of the few elected members of the American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters.

He won an Emmy Award for Speaking in Tongues, which was produced by WNET/New York.

In 1992, he received the Kennedy Center honors.

In 1995, he received the Algur H. Meadows Award for Excellence in the Arts.

He was presented the ‘Legion d’Honneur’ for his ‘exceptional contributions to French culture’, in 2000.
Personal Life, Legacy & Death

He formed the Paul Taylor Dance Company in 1954, which is considered one of the premier dance institutes of the 20th century. 

He worked closely with other dancers/choreographers, including Martha Graham, Laura Dean, Dan Wagoner, Elizabeth Keen, Senta Driver and Lila York.

The Paul Taylor Dance Foundation was established to help promote Taylor’s works to the largest possible audiences around the globe.

In 1993, he formed Taylor 2, which continues to bring the choreographer’s masterworks to smaller places around the world. Taylor 2 also teaches his dance style in a number of educational institutions and community gatherings.

Paul Taylor died on August 29, 2018, of renal failure, at a Manhattan hospital. He was 88.


This famous choreographer’s licensed choreography, Aureole, is performed by nearly 75 dance institutions worldwide.

See the events in life of Paul Taylor in Chronological Order

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