Book Review: Facts and Fancies, Essays Written Mostly For Fun
Paul Taylor with foreword by Robert Gottleib, introduction by Susanne Carbonneau
Taylor celebrates and satirizes indiscriminately: Martha Graham, the “Creative Process,” members of the press, himself, the institutions of Ballet and Modern Dance…the list of victims and heroes goes on.
As author and as subject matter, Taylor gives us many versions of himself: benevolent dictator, escapist (“My edges seriously frayed, I needed a quiet place to mend.”), keen observer, crafter of aliases, poet, satirist of self and others (His characters Dr Tacet and Sheriff O’Houlihan are foil and mirror), and, at times, cynic. Bewilderingly, or maybe not so, he asserts: “Ideally, my work would be anonymous.”
He tackles the very concepts of art and creativity as borrowing exercises. As his highbrow alter-ego Dr George H Tacet, Ph.D., Taylor gives himself a talking-to for his “shameless pirating of dance steps,” then in his own voice he asserts that “the whole world is one big, glorious grab-bag,” and “we don’t really own anything.” The episode titled “In the Marcel Proust Suite of L’Hotel Continental” is both a jab as the pervasiveness of American culture and an allusion to all art as pastiche. (And besides all that, the whole essay is sublimely, perfectly absurd.) He tears mercilessly into classical ballet, and writes that a fictitious colony of bees “…have all but mastered a simplified version of Pavlova’s ‘Dying Swan’ and as soon as they get the snake arms right they should be able to dance the whole routine in toe shoes!”
Taylor’s younger self also falls under his microscope. The ironic and heartfelt “Two Bozos Seen Through Glass” is titled as much for the past and present Taylor as for the two modern dance students auditioning on his rain-soaked patio.
Truly good art, whether written or performed, is made best by the creators who are not afraid to show up and be vulnerable, to borrow, to laugh at themselves…and to occasionally be “stark naked,” as Taylor says of his solo in Aureole. Facts and Fancies is one of those good works, and well worth adding to every creative person’s library.
Footage of Aureole danced by the Royal Danish Ballet: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0q-ztXxdG_o
Esplanade danced by PTDC: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qyGWsGl7Ezo
Commentary on the Taylor documentary Dancemaker: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Gs3B-Bzo_HM
Dancemaker on YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/user/danceconsortium/videos?query=dancemaker
Lovely 80th Birthday tributes to Taylor: http://ptdc.org/artists-dances/paul-taylor/80th-birthday-tributes/