The creation of a new dance, “Three Dubious Memories,” by legendary New York choreographer Paul Taylor, makes up both the form and content of the lucid, energetic new documentary Paul Taylor: Creative Domain, yet the performance of the dance itself is the weakest moment in the film.
Director Kate Geis follows a creative process that begins with Taylor’s intuition — in this case, to explore the fallibility of memory, and the way a single event can be remembered differently by those involved — and then proceeds through casting the piece; choreography; rehearsal; all the way to finale. The depth and emotional texture that develops over the course of the film through interviews with Taylor, his dancers, and composers resonates during the performance — yet, choreographed for the immediate audience, “Three Dubious Memories” here feels flat and far away, separated from its original intention by space, time, and screen.
Where that intimacy comes through, however, is in the other 60 minutes of this 80-minute film — coincidentally, the length of time for which Taylor has the stamina to choreograph. What a pleasure to see Taylor stir Carnation evaporated milk into his coffee as he sculpts the motion of his dancers, to watch the growing offstage romance between his two onstage leads, to hear a frustrated company member who wasn’t cast in the piece look straight into the camera and declare, “I have so much I want to give him, but he’s stoic and there’s nothing there.”
A dance is not only motion, but emotion. This fascinating film reminds us how closely the two are linked.
Paul Taylor: Creative Domain
Directed by Kate Geis
Resident Artist Films
Opens September 11, Film Society of Lincoln Center