What Unique (and Stinging) Review Did Noted Dance Critic Louis Horst Give to an Early Dance of Famed Choreographer Paul Taylor?

Here is the latest in a series of examinations into urban legends related to dancing and dancers and whether they are true or false. Click here to view an archive of the dancing urban legends featured so far.

DANCING URBAN LEGEND: Louis Horst had a stinging review of an early Paul Taylor choreographed performance.

Louis Horst was one of the VERY earliest proponents of modern dance.

He was around for so long that Martha Graham was HIS student!!

Besides being a prominent dance teacher, Horst was also a notable dance critic.

In 1934, he debuted a new magazine called the Dance Observer to get across his particular views and theories about the world of modern dance.

The magazine lasted until 1964, when it ended upon Horst’s death.

In any event, one of Graham’s students was a man named Paul Taylor.

Taylor began performing in the early 1950s in a special dance performance joint choreographed by Graham and the famous ballet choreographer, George Balanchine (you might recall Balanchine from one of the very first installments of Dancing Urban Legends Revealed). Balanchine developed a solo that was so unique that they had to drop it from the show when Taylor left the show.

Within two years, Taylor was choreographing his own shows!

When Taylor started out, he was all about the ideas and theories of what one could accomplish with modern dance – what different kinds of expression you could make.

As a result, some of his dances were not exactly audience friendly.

In 1957, just three years after making his professional dance debut, Taylor debuted his choreographed work, “Seven New Dances.”

Mixed in throughout the dances were dances that, well, did not appear to the naked eye to BE dances. Much like how John Cage felt that his four minutes and thirty three seconds of “silence” showed you how silence was not ACTUALLY silent, so, too, did Taylor feel that, depending on how you handle it, NOT moving could be as dramatic as moving.

He played with that idea throughout the show, but one dance, in particular, stood out – in this dance, Taylor and a fellow dancer basically stand/sit still for four minutes.

Horst, the modern dance pioneer, was especially put off by this dance, and he made that clear with one of the more brilliant critiques you’ll get a chance to see.

In the Dance Observer, he began his review by noting that Taylor did a show the night before, he then gave the location of the performance – and he then followed with four paragraphs of blank space, followed by his (Horst’s) sign-off.

Isn’t that something?

Eventually, Taylor took the hint (or just decided on his own to change things up), as his work since then has long been one of the MORE accessible modern (or is he post-modern?) choreographers. As the 20th Century went by and the 21st Century began, he also slowly became one of the most prominent living choreographers there was PERIOD.

To get an idea of how his style has changed, just note that Twyla Tharp is one of his most prominent former students – Tharp, who is perhaps best known for her choreography on the Billy Joel jukebox musical, Moving Out.

Four Minutes of no Movement to Moving Out?

That’s quite a journey.

The legend is…


Feel free (heck, I implore you!) to write in with your suggestions for future installments! My e-mail address is bcronin@legendsrevealed.com.

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