Like most performing arts, the ephemeral qualities of dance have made it one of the more difficult arts to document and trace. Although the Paul Taylor Dance Company Archive holdings include over 200 films and more than 1000 videos, the seeming abundance of these materials does not insure the preservation of all of the dances Paul Taylor has choreographed. In fact, some of the dances were, and still are, considered lost. As part of the RPP, 65 dances have been re-staged and filmed in both colored unitards so that individual roles can be seen more easily, and with full costumes, lighting, and scenery to give the full effect of the performance. The Archives is making these videos available for use by dancers as teaching tools.
In 1996 the Paul Taylor Dance Company commissioned the Information and Archival Services Division of the Winthrop Group to organize the archival collections. When project work began, the accumulation of archival documentation totaled an estimated 250 cubic feet of documents, films, photographs, scrapbooks, programs, publications, videos and artifacts. The records have been processed and are currently housed in the archives.
Most recently, a NHPRC grant enabled the Archives to process and describe over 90 cubic ft. of backlog, and create an EAD finding aid available both through the Paul Taylor Dance Company website and through ArchiveGrid.
The collections currently in the Paul Taylor Dance Archives are the result of years of consistent if sometimes haphazard collecting on the part of Mr. Taylor and members of the staff of the Paul Taylor Dance Company. Material dated prior to 1953 consists primarily of photographs, personal documents, scrapbooks, schoolwork and report cards. Among these are photographs and correspondence of Mr. Taylor’s family members and ancestors, as well as of Mr. Taylor during his childhood through his college years at Syracuse University. It is only after 1953 when Mr. Taylor came to New York to study dance and to choreograph, that the documentation becomes more detailed and varied. The types of documentation include: choreography notebooks, photographs, Labanotated scores, tour files, programs (among them Playbills), articles, reviews, news clippings, correspondence, Board of Directors meeting minutes, photographs, original costumes, costume sketches, set designs, contracts, videos, films, audio tapes, posters, financial records, and more.
Currently the Paul Taylor Dance Archives include: * Over 300 cubic feet of records (including off-site storage) * Approximately 70 linear feet of processed videotapes currently being digitized, which document Paul Taylor’s choreography and are used primarily for reference by dancers, staff, and researchers (additional videotapes are stored off-site) * an estimated 150 posters which have been identified, wrapped or rolled and added to the database finding aid. Supplementing this finding aid is a database finding aid which, as of June 2011, consists of over 10,600 entries that can be searched for information on the processed materials in the collections.
Reference and research work has included a wide variety of applications. A sampling of these includes: * licensed performances of Paul Taylor’s work by Ballet Arizona, a Swedish ballet company, the Julliard Dance Ensemble, San Francisco Ballet, and the North Carolina Dance Theatre, among others * preparation of presenters for the Company’s tour of India * an exhibit at the National Museum of Dance in 1995 and the celebration of Paul Taylor’s career and choreography which took place when he was inducted into the Hall of Fame at the Museum * press kits and publicity for Company tours * television coverage on WABC-TV * reconstruction by Linda Hodes of “So Long Eden” * an educational packet to be used for Taylor 2 performances * a Guggenheim Museum retrospective of the work of artist Robert Rauschenberg * the documentary film on Paul Taylor entitled “Dancemaker” and publicity in advance of its screening at various film festivals * a “City Arts” segment on the Company broadcast on WNET * teachings of Paul Taylor’s choreography in a number of venues in the U.S. and other countries * preparation for a symposium to be held in California in connection with Paul Taylor’s 1999 artist-in-residence plans * provided evidence for effort to copywrite Paul Taylor’s dances * 50th Anniversary book, Dancemaker at Work, commemorating the Paul Taylor and his Company’s many achievements.
As Paul Taylor continues his work, the Company and Taylor 2 become ever more highly regarded, and the School continues its educational activities, more materials will be generated that require inclusion in the archival collections. The Paul Taylor Dance Company’s long-term commitment to the Archives will insure the future preservation and documentation of, as well as protection for and access to the work and artistry of Paul Taylor and his Company.