Monday, June 20, 2016

Informal Interview (Post #3)

For this post, I informally interviewed Eryc Taylor, the artistic director of Eryc Taylor Dance and UArts alum I am working for. These were the results:

What were your first experiences with art?
When I was in the third grade living in Washington, DC my stepfather, who was in education but an artist at heart, would make sure that he took my brother and I to all of the contemporary art museums including the National Gallery and the Hirschhorn. He tried to explain what abstract art was to me at such a young age. Part of me enjoyed visiting the museums but I felt overcome by the artwork because I couldn't conceptualize it, and being a kid, I wanted to go to the air and space museum. But he literally would make me stand in front of a Jackson Pollock painting for thirty minutes and explain to me who he was, what his style was, what makes a Jackson Pollock a Jackson Pollock, what made a Warhol a Warhol, and who Louise Nevelson was. He used to make sculptures like hers collecting random objects, finding scraps of wood, and painting them all one color. It wasn't really until I took Art History at UArts that I recalled all of that and realized it had such a major impact on my life. It was like a Pandora's box was opened up inside of me and a deep love and appreciation came out. That exposure as a young kid made me fall in love with contemporary art.

How/Why did you attend UArts?

I'm from Los Angeles and my favorite state as a child was New York. I visited New York City and I knew that's where I wanted to live when I grew up. When I graduated Los Angelas County High School for the Arts, my heart was set on Juilliard or NYU. But my dad lived in Haverford on the main line and he wanted me to be close to him, so when the University of the Arts came to my high school I auditioned and was accepted as a theater major. I didn't fall in love with dance until I was in high school, so I really didn't start my training until I was around 15 or 16 years old. When I went to University of the Arts I transferred from the theater department to the dance department and that was my first real professional training in dance. I was genetically gifted with natural turnout and good feet, but I still had to work much harder than everyone else to catch up. I quickly realized that creating dance was where my talent lied. Manfred Fischbeck asked me to audition for his company Group Motion Dance when he saw me improvising in his class and so I joined the company while I was still an undergraduate. Each dancer in the company had to create a piece to perform as part of our repertory, and when we toured Berlin I got to showcase my choreography for the first time. I was really grateful for that experience.

I feel as though I initially had a resentment to UArts because I didn't originally want to be in Philadelphia, but I loved the time I spent there. I loved that all my teachers were actively pursuing careers in dance and not full time instructors. My humanities professors were published authors and we used textbooks that the teachers wrote themselves in some of my classes. It was a fabulous school.

What would you do differently in your career?

I started off taking class with Cunningham after I graduated college when I had never been introduced to his technique. I began by mopping the floors at their dance center and eventually got a scholarship and got into the understudy repertory group. What I would have done differently was postponed getting my master's degree from NYU to stay there. I wish I hadn't made that transition so quickly. I knew I always wanted to have my own company, but I could have postponed that.

Do you have mentors?

I feel as though Manfred Fischbeck was one of my first mentors because he gave me the opportunity to create dance and to choreograph. He gave me a platform to do what I had not previously had the resources to do, and that was incredibly valuable to me.

I feel that a dance photographer I've worked with a lot, Lois Greenfield, is a mentor to me now because I've had the opportunity to collaborate with her multiple times. When I was in high school I had her calendar and was fascinated with her photography. It is funny how life comes full circle and my company ended up being in her calendar in 2016, and in her new book, Moving Still, there are two photos featuring my company.

What advice do you have for young dancers, or choreographers that aspire to create their own dance company?

I would say that you have to be willing sacrifice a comfortable living in whatever city you're in (New York especially) and you have to know one hundred percent in your heart that you want to be a dancer. Otherwise I think it's one of the most difficult fields to make a living in. When I graduated NYU I fell into the trap of waiting tables, working at night, and being too exhausted to take class, and for awhile I drifted away from dance. It really wasn't until the shock of 9/11 that I decided I couldn't wait tables anymore and needed to start a company. My advice is to do as much research about grants, scholarships, involvement in nonprofit organizations, free dance classes, work study at dance centers,  as possible and to take as many workshops and attend as many auditions as you can.

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