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The Loyalty of Paul Taylor Dancers

By: Susan Reiter
Date: Mar 06, 2017


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Artists explain the company's long-term allure


The 17 members of the Paul Taylor Dance Company, which opens its three-week season at Lincoln Center on March 7, are always listed in order of seniority. The current roster ranges from Michael Trusnovec, whose eloquence and versatility have anchored the Taylor repertory since 1998, to Kristin Draucker, who just signed on in January.

Longevity and loyalty like Trusnovec's are a hallmark of Taylor dancers, and eight other current company members have been there for over a decade. The size and range of the repertory – 21 different works this season – keep them challenged and often surprised.

The company was such a dream job for Draucker that she auditioned three other times over the past seven years before being selected out of the 300 women who came to Taylor's January call. "There's not a tremendous amount of work nowadays in the modern dance field where you're running and jumping and throwing yourself on the ground – and just being so physical," she says. "I've always been drawn to work like that. Then there's how beautiful each dance is – how layered they all are.

"I've been a freelance dancer in New York for the past 11 years, so I've experienced all different kinds of companies. As you grow older, you start to realize some of the things that are really important to you as a dancer that you might not have realized when you were younger and just wanted a job. And one of those things is the way a company works together, as people. This is such a wonderful company to be on stage with. You really get to interact with everyone on stage."


Draucker, 30, has been easing her way into the repertory in the short time since joining. She will perform in four Taylor dances and is an understudy for five more. Trusnovec will appear in 15 works during the season, including one of the two Taylor premieres, Ports of Call. "It feels like a travelogue," he says. "Each of the four sections is a postcard come to life."

As the company's associate rehearsal director, he also assists in rehearsals of the few works in which he doesn't perform. He's been closely observing The Open Door, Taylor's other premiere, which is set to Elgar's Enigma Variations. Trusnovec sees a link between both new dances: "They're both character- and feeling-driven. They tend to lean towards the theatrical."

The extensive repertory he'll perform during the three weeks includes multiple examples of the new approach taken by Paul Taylor's American Modern Dance. That's the full title for the initiative, launched in 2014, that commissions other choreographers to create works for the Taylor dancers. Returning are both of last year's invigorating premieres: Larry Keigwin's Rush Hour and Doug Elkins' The Weight of Smoke.

Trusnovec observes that Elkins, whose vocabulary incorporates aspects of street dancing, took the dancers in new directions. "He challenged us, outside of the physical box we're used to working in. His style of movement is so different."


If this season's newly commissioned work, Continuum, feels closer to home base, it's because choreographer Lila York was a memorable Taylor dancer herself for a dozen years. Trusnovec, who performs in the piece, says, "I love the lineage factor, the fact that she's bringing a history with the company and fusing it with the current dancers and the way we're moving now.

The fact that the Orchestra of St. Luke's will be playing for all of the season's performances is something Trusnovec cherishes. When he first joined the company, it performed almost exclusively to recorded music, and the return of live accompaniment is a welcome development.

"Orchestra of St. Luke's is perfect for us," Trusnovec says. "It breathes such a new life into the dances, makes them feel fresher." (Music director Donald York and Broadway regular Ted Sperling will share conducting duties.)

Given his presence at the top of the Taylor roster, Trusnovec has observed all of his fellow company members from the start of their tenure. "I love when someone new comes in -- watching them figure things out, and seeing what dances they really shine in," he says. "I like to quietly observe and give feedback when it's called for. Throughout my career here, people have given me information when they feel it will help me, so I try to do the same."

He adds, "It's so much about discovering yourself in the work, and not trying to copy someone else, to be a duplicate. How fantastic to work in a company where we're allowed to do that."


TDF MEMBERS: At press time, tickets were available to Paul Taylor's spring season at Lincoln Center. Go here to browse our current. offers.

Susan Reiter regularly covers dance for TDF Stages.

Performance photos by Paul B. Goode. Top photo: Michael Trusnovic (leaping) in 'Brandenburgs.' Headshot of Kristin Draucker by Whitney Browne.

Susan Reiter covers dance for TDF Stages.