Modern dance choreographer Paul Taylor died August 30 in New York City as a result of renal failure at the age of 88.

During his career of over 50 years, Taylor created nearly 150 productions.

His dance company – The Paul Taylor Dance Company – is known the world over and performs for three weeks each year at the Lincoln Center in New York City. Taylor served as the company’s artistic director until earlier this year when Taylor named company dancer Michael Novak as only the second artistic director in the company’s 64 year history.

Taylor’s signature was choreographing modern dances to classical works, most notably Baroque works. But Taylor did not limit himself to just Classical music; he also choreographed dances to ragtime, tangos, the jitterbug, party music, barbershop quartets, and even a band machine.

He was born Paul Belleville Taylor on July 29, 1930 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, but grew up in the Washington DC area. Oddly enough, it was painting not dance that attracted Taylor’s attention at Syracuse University. However, a spot on the swim team who provide Taylor with his signature dance move later – a butterfly stroke while twisted in mid air.

But during his sophomore year Taylor traded in his swim trunks for dance tights…and a lifelong love and career was born.

Taylor transferred to Juilliard in New York City where he studied with Martha Graham.

In 1953 a 24 year old Paul Taylor formed his own dance company and for seven seasons he was a solo dancer for Martha Graham while continuing to build his own dance company.

Besides Graham, Taylor has also worked with George Balanchine and has performed at the White House. Other accomplishments include Emmy Wards, being a Kennedy Center Honor and receiving the National Medal of Arts. His Broadway performances include “Big Bertha”, “Esplanade”, and “Nureyev and Friends”.

Taylor, himself, stopped performing in 1974 after he collapsed during a performance due to illness and exhaustion, but continued to run his company and choreograph dances for decades to come.
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