Jamie Rae Walker
August 1, 2015

Music for modern

Jamie Rae Walker in Paul Taylor’s Death and the Damsel

For classically trained dancers, learning to move from the inside out can be a disorienting experience. Jamie Rae Walker, who began her career with Miami City Ballet but has danced with Paul Taylor’s main company since 2008, works with dancers to ease their dependence on the mirror and find a deeper connection to technique and artistry.

At the Taylor School (also the company’s rehearsal space), there are no mirrors at all, so students are more accustomed to feeling movement instead of looking for visual cues. But when she’s teaching at other schools, Walker will ask dancers to try certain exercises—samplings of Taylor repertory—facing the back of the room. “It changes their relationship to their backs and the honesty of the focus. It changes the line of the neck and head and everything,” she says. When dancers struggle with the transition, she suggests they focus on the music and tell themselves a story about what it’s saying. “It gets them thinking and not worried about the shapes they’re making,” she says. “When you can feel things from the inside, in the deepest way possible, there’s not that great shift when you get to a place that doesn’t have mirrors.”

And that pays off in performance. Of dancing with the Taylor company, Walker says, “We connect with each other really deeply onstage. It’s something that’s exceptional about our company. You have those relationships onstage because your eye is trained to look outside yourself.” DT


Artist: Andy Monroe

Album: Joyful Noise 1

“I start my classes with Andy Monroe, a musician who used to play for the Taylor School all the time. He’s creating his own dance CDs. I feel like his music is perfect for the Taylor back warm-up.”




Artist: G.F. Handel

Piece: Score to Paul Taylor’s Airs (1978)

“The music from that dance forces you to listen to some undercurrents. There’s a pulse and then some very lyrical phrases on top of that. It’s fun to dance to something that has layers to it.”


Artist: J.S. Bach

Piece: Score to Taylor’s Cascade (1999)

“I just think that music is absolutely beautiful. The sections I like to use in class are a little quicker. It’s bright and happy with a driving energy.”


Artist: Tom Waits

Song: “Make It Rain”

“I married a guitar player, so a balance of rock ’n roll music with my classical life has always been important. I like Tom Waits because he has such a great sense of humor in his music. A lot of his rhythms come from very unique instruments. He doesn’t use everyday guitar strums and bass. He uses

doorjambs and hammers.”



Artist: Michael Brunnock

Song: “Circle”

“His voice sounds like something you want to move to. He has really beautiful lyrical songs. I’ll use his songs for students who need modern or contemporary solos for college auditions.”



Photo (top) by Paul B. Goode, courtesy of Paul Taylor’s American Modern Dance

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