THE STRAIGHT DOPE:
As the old saying goes, "talking about music is
like dancing about architecture." Talking about dancing seems almost as futile. In
the dramatic world of professional dancing, however, there is a lot to talk about and
Paul Taylor Dancemaker (1998) does a fine job of discussing the lives and
struggles of legendary choreographer/dancer Taylor and the members of his dance
company while stepping out of the way
of the dancing and letting it speak for
itself. And the dancing, even to those with little interest in modern ballet, is pretty
impressive. Taylor's style pushes the boundaries of what is expected from dance but
never appears pretentious or overly surreal. This isn't just dance that looks pretty.
Taylor uses the movements of his dancers to comment on the music and create
narrative and atmosphere.
Taylor himself was a featured dancer for decades and some of his classic pieces are
shown here in archival footage. In one
particularly effective sequence footage from
several performances of Taylor's Aurole is intercut with footage of one of the
members of his current company performing the same piece.
Dancemaker also portrays the complex emotional struggles of the dancers, from
Taylor's loss of a collaborator to AIDS to his decision to fire a popular member of his
troupe. Perhaps the sequence that best illustrates the perseverance of the dancers comes
during a trip to India when the sound system suddenly fails. The dancers, without
missing a beat, continue the act for several silent minutes while the backstage crew tries
to find the source of the problem. When the sound
system regains power, the
battery-powered Mini Disc player continues where it should be revealing that the
dancers have kept perfect time throughout the disturbance. It is an amazing feat but is
par for the course for such a professional outfit.
The picture is full-frame and looks ok. The colors are muted and the sharpness is
nothing spectacular but the camera work is excellent. The dances are captured
The 2.0 soundtrack and is fine. It isn't created with any particular flair, but it gets the
job done. The mostly classical music used in the performances sounds good.
There are some text-based extras with bios and other information. A trailer for
Dancemaker is also included.
Dancemaker is an interesting and well-made documentary that should please
fans of serious dance and newcomers.
Other ballet reviews:
New York City Ballet
Gil Jawetz is a graphic designer, video director, and t-shirt designer. He lives in Brooklyn.
E-mail Gil at firstname.lastname@example.org