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Hall Garner shares first look at Paul Taylor Dance Company season

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We pulled up a chair for an interview with brilliant choreographer Amy Hall Garner, and also got a first look at the 2022 New York City season of Paul Taylor Dance Company at Lincoln Center. Spoiler alert: it’s going to be fantastic!

Who is Amy Hall Garner?

When Amy Hall Garner sits down to watch a dance performance, what does she hope to see?

“I really want to see joy,” she says. She also says, “I go to the theater to be uplifted, and for it to change me in a positive way… I really love to be entertained.”

Amy Hall Garner and dance
Amy Hall Garner shines a light at her dance performance this season. Courtesy Photo.

Garner is best known for her tremendous work as a choreographer, having received commissions from many of the most prestigious dance companies around the world; but she is also a dancer, and her affinity for the artform began when she was a young girl.

How choreographer Amy Hall Garner got started

 “I started dancing when I was about two, three years old,” she said. Garner’s mother enrolled her in dance as an extra-curricular activity, and fortunately, Garner’s teacher saw something special in her. She began one on-one lessons. “That’s when the love and discipline began,” Garner says. “Looking back now, that’s when I got a really intimate relationship with dance. And it just became my first love.”

But the choreography? That she never saw coming. “I never set out to be a choreographer. I set out to be a dancer, and perform.”  And yet somehow – between her composition classes at Julliard, and her work assisting friends choreograph their pieces – something sparked within her. She began to create – first on a small-scale, and then a larger one. These days, Garner considers choreography to be her full-time job.

Dance is unique as an artform, in how drastically the creative process can differ from creating one piece to creating another. Besides the practical considerations – such as, how much time the choreographer has to complete the dance – each new piece is drawn from what seems an almost entirely new palette of materials.

Garner compared choreographing to writing; when sitting down to put words on the page, writers are always working with same letters. “As a choreographer, my alphabets change, depending on the dancers I’m with,” she says.

Maybe it is this ever-changing alphabet that makes dance such an exciting artform to watch. In a sense, each new combination of choreographer and company members brings a new library of words to the stage. Dance allows for infinite variations, in the way that only collaborative processes can.

And yet, there are certain elements of the choreographing process that remain consistent for Garner: the music, and the dancers.

Amy Hall Garner and dance
Amy Hall Garner with Madelyn Ho. Photo by Maria Ambrose.

“For me, the process always starts with music,” she says. “Music is the foundation of where my brain starts to create.” She begins each piece by choosing a piece of music that inspires her. She hopes will inspire the dancers and the audience.

From there, the rest of the creation process occurs in real-time, once Garner has her dancers in front of her. She describes the synergy of that moment – once her music is selected, once she has an idea of what she wants to say with the piece, once she has her dancers in front of her; that is the moment when the actual movements of the piece begin to arise.

“Seeing [the dancers] in the studio… and feeling their energy and seeing their gifts just inspires me, ” Garner says. “I always tend to lean on them, in terms of what comes out of my brain to give them.”

Of course, this connective feeling means that the COVID pandemic presented a major obstacle for dance – perhaps more so than for any other artform. Though dances can be choreographed over zoom, there is no substitute for the magic that happens when the choreographer gets to be in the same room as her dancers. That special moment – that synergy – is diluted by state lines and slow WiFi.

Even so, Garner sees a silver lining in what the pandemic has done for the medium. Namely, given it a broader audience.

Dance is everywhere

 “You can see dance anywhere,” she says. For the first time in history, the latest creations from the world’s major dance companies have found their way to phones and computers. People all over the world – people who may never have seen a dance performance live before – have access, and the access is sparking their curiosity. If there is anything that can keep dance growing as an artform, it’s this expanded reach.

But for the creative process, in-person is always better.

And luckily, for Garner’s latest World Premiere – which debuts on November 3rd at the David H. Koch Theater, as a commissioned piece for Paul Taylor Dance Company’s new season – she and her dancers were able to be together.

“We were face to face, we were in the studio. We’re making it in real-time, in front of each other, in the same studio, in the same space,” she says. She described the process as “wonderful.”

There was a long break between when Garner first began to think about the dance, and when she and the dancers of Paul Taylor Dance Company were actually able to share space.

Amy Hall Garner and dance
Amy Hall Garner with Jada rehearsing for Paul Taylor Dance Company season at Lincoln Center New York. Courtesy Photo.

 “We started this process back in February of 2020,” Garner said.

Garner says that she has no idea what she would have choreographed if the world had not shut down.  “What I wanted to do, probably, if everything had kept going, is completely different than what I am making now,” she says. “In a good way. Growth happened during that time.”

And we can’t wait to see the results.

Set to a jazz soundscape, Garner’s World Premiere is an homage to American dance, and to American music. “I wanted to take two American artforms,” she says, “and blend them and fuse them together.”

Knowing the collaboration that goes into creating a dance, audience members can see more in what happens on the stage – from the set, to the lighting, to the costumes, to the dancers themselves; so many individual worlds of knowledge and expertise that come together to make one seamless creation. When you begin to think about the individual components, the final result is that much more spectacular.

In spite of her many accomplishments, Garner still considers herself, “a student of choreography.” But perhaps all choreographers are. In a process that is so deeply interconnected, there is always more for each person to gain from the people around them. There is always more energy to draw, in the hopes of creating something new.

We are looking forward to Amy Hall Garner’s World Premiere, on November 3rd at the David H. Koch Theater at Lincoln Center. This World Premiere is commissioned as part of Paul Taylor Dance Company’s new season.

Amy Hall Garner and the new season of Paul Taylor Dance Company at Lincoln Center New York

Those are the highlights from our interview with choreographer Amy Hall Garner, and a first look at the 2022 New York City season of Paul Taylor Dance Company at Lincoln Center. Grab a ticket while you can – we cannot wait to see the new works.

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