On the bank of a harsh western lake, a lithe and muscular being dances, clothed in nothing but mud.
"It was a kind of evolution piece," says Paul Langland, describing one of the first solos he performed in Boulder, Colorado. After running in widening circles until the mud washed off, "shiny and nude, I then disappeared over the edge of the bank. Off to conquer the world, I guess!" he concludes with a characteristic chuckle.
Nearly 40 years after Mud Dance (1976), it seems that he has done just that. Paul inhabits a prosperous artistic world of distinct, interrelated territories, whose borders are often porous. In addition to being a mercurial dancer, Paul is also an accomplished singer, choreographer, and collaborator. He has worked alongside many of the men and women who pioneered New York City´s downtown performance scene in the ´70s and ´80s, from Steve Paxton to Meredith Monk. Today, he continues to collaborate and create new performances, which have been presented in both the United States and Europe. He is a master of creating dance "in real time," and of the art of improvisation.
Examining his career is to enter American contemporary performance, past and present. While literally dancing with history for much of his career in contemporary performance, Paul describes the atmosphere of his early days in New York as "pure enthusiasm."
"There was a real spill-over between those who danced for fun and those who were more serious," he said. "This created a loose and free-wheeling atmosphere," a refreshing sensibility which remains a signature in his work.
Paul Langland (2014)
On 29 March, the Brooklyn Arts Exchange (BAX) Arts & Artists In Progress Awards will honor Langland with its 2014 Arts Educator Award. The accolade is more than apt: for more than 30 years, he has been one of the core faculty members at the Experimental Theatre Wing at New York University´s Tisch School of the Arts. He has nurtured and influenced hundreds of performance-makers, many of working professionally in dance, theater, music, television and film, and more.
"One of my central goals is that my students find their unique voice as improvisers and choreographers," he says. "This value comes from my visual arts background."