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Laura Halzack - Sylvan Spirit; Celestial Saint

by Wendy Goldberg
May 9, 2009
Purchase, NY

Featured Dance Company:

Paul Taylor Dance Company
Paul Taylor Dance Company (office)
552 Broadway
New York, NY 10012
212 431 5562

I was quite fortunate to be able to interview Laura Halzack, the youthful, dazzling dancer with The Paul Taylor Co. Her portrayal of the bejewled creature of heavenly dimensions in De Suenos, and Of Recurring Dreams, was no less than iconic. Her silvery, sylvan spirit radiated throughout the theater, as she seemed to float on the golden air. Our conversation follows.

Wendy: Hi Laura. I was exhilerated by your exquisite performance in De Suenos and Recurring Dreams at the City Center this season..in the part of the Angel…is that how you refer to her?

Laura: Hi Wendy. She's the Virgin Guadalupe, actually.

Wendy: Oh, the Virgin Guadalupe. Ok. She also seemed to be a representation of the Life force, or…Love.

Laura: Yes! I would also say that. That character has a real duality.

Wendy: You did quite a bit of research to layer the character?

Laura: Yes, I did. It was a year ago. I do remember when I was originally researching the character being fascinated by that duality…by the saintliness and Christian aspect of it, which in a lot of ways, the movement and the purity of line reflect…but also therre's a really nurturing quality to the movement as well…which I think of as Mother. It's almost like as you're doing that as a soloist, you're creating the universe…you know…

Wendy: Ooh…

Laura: I did find that fascinating, and I have a feeling - I don't know for sure - but I think Paul (Taylor) was getting at that too, especially with the duet with Michael (Trusnovic).

Wendy: Absolutely. The duet with Michael was for me, the quintessential moment of the piece - bringing together all of the elements…particularly in Of Recurring Dreams. Is that the moment you're talking about…when you kind of intertwined…in almost a rapturous love duet?

Laura: Yes. That is the moment I'm talking about.

Wendy: Yes. Did you want to talk a little bit about your relationship with the Stag ? (played by Michael Trusnovic).

Laura: It's interesting because the Stag and the Virgin Guadalupe don't interact in the first piece.

Wendy: Right.

Laura: Both dances are a series of vignettes…I don't think they were meant to have a real story line. The characters reappear and I think they represent the same thing in both dances. I'm sure Paul had it in mind when he made the first one…but I think the duet for me is a moment in time. I don't think anything either one of us do…clearly builds up to that moment…but I do think everything else comes from that moment.

Wendy: Yes!

Laura: Like in the rest of Recurring Dreams…because I view that as the first love duet…it's the beginning.

Wendy: Yes.

Laura: We're both these different symbolic figures in Mexican History, and Native American folklore…and after that, you see all different kinds of love duets…then the joyous finale after
Annmaria (Mazzini) and Rob's (Kleinendorst) duet.

Wendy: Yes…I saw that!

Laura: You know…everyone comes out and it's just about Life and all that…

Wendy: Yes…I felt that…

Laura: Everything that follows that moment is very intentional.

Wendy: It seemed like the townsfolk were mirroring your relationship with the Stag…and before that, with the Devil. Your relationship with him seemed ambivalent, but at the point when you and the Deer came together, it was like the Soul and Nature of the people could move towards Love. In the end, the whole company bursts on stage, the music takes on a lively tone and they begin folk dancing, as the dark mood lifts.

Laura: Yes!

Wendy: Ok…let's talk about your relationship with the Devil in the first piece - in both pieces -there seem to be some moments when you touched. You witnessed the slaying of the girl by the Aztec warriors and the Devil…and your character seemed unable to intervene…

Laura: It's interesting. The idea…this is my interpretation…this is nothing anyone told me…

Wendy: Right.

Laura: But I think the characters are more symbolic..While we do interact physically on stage, I think what Paul is getting at is always having Life and Death existing at the same time.

Wendy: Ahhh.

Laura: Life and Death are a part of our common existence, and they do this dance…in the first piece, you have the carousel…

Wendy: Yes, yes, the carousel…

Laura: The idea is you have this circle that keeps going on. Randomly people come out, and it's images of different people dying - there's no real rhyme or reason to it. But the carousel goes on.

Wendy: Mmm.

Laura: Life and death face each other on opposite sides of this constantly rotating circle…you know, Life doesn't intervene with Death…

Wendy: Yes.

Laura: Death is part of Life…they exist at the same time…I don't think Life would have intervened with the death of that girl. We're all drifting in the same kind of cosmic sphere…circling each other….do you see that?

Wendy: You put that beautifully…

Laura: Oh thank you! That's how I look at it. Everybody can interpret it in a different way.

Wendy: Yes! Now I want to talk about your movement. You show an amazing supple strength, and a forceful flow that's embellished with delicate precision. Does this come naturally to you…do you work on it consciously?

Laura: I think it's a little bit of both. Fortunately, since I was a little girl, I've been rather flexible. I've had a lot of ballet as well as modern training - so that certainly helps with the strength…you know…

Wendy Yes…

Laura: I will say when Paul made that solo on me…it's very hard…it's probably the hardest thing I do…one of the hardest things I do…in the repertory…just for the sheer focus and control of it.

Wendy: Yes…I could see that.

Laura: Because it's like you know you can do all the steps, but you need to be in such a meditative, calm state to do it in character…the subtlety and softness of it…that you were talking about.

Wendy: Yes…I felt that.

Laura: If you asked me if I thought I could do something like that…when I got in the company, or before that, I would say no –

Wendy: Mmm.

Laura: The way I move, I guess it is me…that does come instinctually - I'm always trying to reflect through my body - Paul's style - but I understand that everybody in the Company has their own way of moving. It's fun because I feel like I'm still discovering it, and I'm trying to find different things - all the different characters that I play…but that particular part is interesting. because like we were saying, it's feminine but it's strong…you know…

Wendy: Yes…

Laura: There's a sensuality to it…at times…you know…

Wendy: Yes…

Laura: This fluid connection between the back, and the pelvis, and the arms, and everything…

Wendy: Absolutely…

Laura: Everything kind of gives off that very feminine quality…

Wendy: Mmmm…

Laura: Then it also has to have that strength!

Wendy: Exactly! The moment which really stands out in my mind is when you did that really slow motion back bend…

Laura: Uh-huh…

Wendy: That was so exquisite and breath taking…the audience was enraptured … that you were able to do that!

Laura: Oooh - thank you! (laughing)

Wendy: You're welcome! (laughing)

Laura: I was glad I could do it too. (laughing)

Wendy: Was that a particularly hard move?

Laura: You know for me it wasn't. I took some acrobatics as a kid. I don't know that I thought that I'd have to use them. I know when Paul asked me to do it, I wasn't sure that I could….

Wendy: Yeah.

Laura: But it was all still there. It's interesting in the context of that piece to have something like that, because it's all four points of your body being in touch with the Earth - with the ground - It's an interesting level change in that Adagio Solo - to put something like that in there…

Wendy: Yes. And the way you used your costume, and the lighting - the light in Of Dreams was silvery, and in Of Recurring Dreams it was golden…you seemed to fuse your movement with the music. You were able to combine all these elements in a magical, almost mystical way…

Laura: Ohh, thank you. I think that's what we try to do. I mean Jennifer Tipton does a fabulous job with the lighting…she creates such an ethereal atmosphere. And the music is very ethereal and heavenly - everything starts to feel like a meditation.

Wendy: Yes, we feel it too.

Laura: Very pure and quiet atmosphere where I feel I could almost be in the cosmos while I'm doing it…

Wendy: Mmmm…

Laura: Like there are stars glittering in the sky…that's what that lighting and the music and everything make me feel…and certainly there's a warmer quality to the lighting in the second piece - you're talking about the golden light…

Wendy: Yes, yes…

Laura: The first piece does show the more saintly side - the ethereal side of the Goddess, and I feel the second piece addresses more the Life force.

Wendy: Yeah.

Laura: I think the lighting helps with that…it makes it warmer…a little bit more tangible…especially the part between Michael (Trusnovic) and I. You know, it's more of a real thing.

Wendy: Exactly. You know I think we in the audience also felt that glittering star, heavenly, meditative atmosphere…because you radiated that! The light was bouncing off your costume in shiny arcs…which gave off a harp like quality…and your movement echoed that.

Laura: Ooh - thank you …

Wendy: You're welcome!

Laura: It's nice to hear what people feel!

Wendy: Yes!

Laura: That's the art…my intention…

Wendy: Yes, wonderful! I understand from Michael that you two hadn't really worked together much before De Suenos.

Laura: Yes, De Suenos was our first collaboration, and Beloved Renegade is our second.

Wendy: Because you seem so natural together.

Laura: Ooh…thank you.

Wendy: You're welcome. Now how did you come to be in the Paul Taylor Company?

Laura: I was a student at the school for two years, after I moved to NY, and I was working for one of Paul's former Taylor 2 Co. members - a woman named Amy Marshall - and studying at the school, when Heather announced her retirement…and Paul started watching class a lot. One day he approached me after class and was very sweet, and we were chatting a bit and he was asking me what I did…and I said I was dancing for Amy - freelance- and also working at UBS vacuum center..(laughing). and he said 'oh well that won't do'!

Wendy: (laughing) Certainly not!

Laura: And he said 'Did you know that I'm having an audition?'…of course at this point, I'd already signed up for it…and he said 'would you like to come' and I came and certainly in the world of dance, that didn't mean I was going to get the job - they did a two day audition - and I think there were almost 400 people there.

Wendy: Wow!

Laura: It came down to 6 of us, and I was very fortunate, you know, that in the end, he chose me…

Wendy: We're fortunate too…

Laura: Ooh, thank you.

Wendy: You're welcome. Did you always want to dance…as a child…

Laura: You know, I did. I did a lot of ballet first - it never felt like the right fit though…

Wendy: Yeah…

Laura: I did stop dancing for three years, in College, and found my way back to it.

Wendy: Mmm.

Laura: I came back to it without a doubt in my mind. I knew exactly what I wanted to do. I was approaching it as more of a grown up. I had my own ideas about what type of artist I wanted to be. Then when I started studying at the Taylor School, I literally fell in love with it!

Wendy: Yes

Laura: I never thought in a million years I'd actually get into the Company, but I took class every day, pretending I was in it…

Wendy: And it came true!

Laura: I wanted to be in it soo bad…

Wendy: People say that if you see yourself doing something, that you can end up doing it…

Laura: Yeah…I guess so…I believe that more now!

Wendy: (laughing) Yeah. Is your family happy with your position…I would imagine they would be.

Laura: They're adorable. They came to see every single dance that was at The City Center this year. They were there every weekend, and came to the Gala!

Wendy: That's great!

Laura: They're my biggest fans!

Wendy: Great! Do you have any future plans you'd like to tell us about…or you'll see what happens?

Laura: Yeah. I kind of just like to do that. I feel so fortunate to be here. I'm always trying to be in the moment. I'm still pretty new so it's always fun to see where Paul sees me - we're still getting to know each other - you know…

Wendy: Yes.

Laura: So every time casting comes out, it's exciting to see what different parts I'm going to get to work on. I'm having such a positive and wonderful experience right now…I guess my only wish is that that continues…

Wendy: Yes…

Laura: I'm feeling it will! I definitely hope it continues.

Wendy: I think the audience absolutely hopes it continues - because it seems like a perfect fit!

Laura: I'm having the time of my life! I really couldn't ask for more…I couldn't be happier!

Wendy: It shows! Now how is it working with the Paul Taylor family…the whole group?

Laura: It's great! There's such a strong comraderie in the Company. Right now I think everybody is in such a good place and it's a lot of fun. The more senior members are always willing to help out, and give information…they're really wonderufl! Some of us more junior members are getting to know each other…the chemistry in the Company as a whole now is phenomenal, and there's so many examples of fantastic artists! I feel we all learn from each other, and I certainly look up to all of my colleagues, so it's good. It's really, really good.

Wendy: Great! Do you live in NYC?

Laura: Yeah…I actually just moved to Brooklyn.

Wendy: So is it fun out there?

Laura: I love it! I just moved to Dumbo…it's a great neighborhood. It's small, but we have little shops, and restaurants, and we're right on the water…it's beautiful…

Wendy: Ahh…

Laura: Yeah…so I love it…and it's close to our new studio too…an added bonus!

Wendy: Sure! And where are you from originally?

Laura: From Suffield, Connecticut.

Wendy: So pretty close.

Laura: Yeah, pretty close. I'm fortunate because when I was growing up, my grandparents lived in Yonkers, so we would come down and do visits…go to Radio City…see the NYC ballet…so it wasn't a brand new place when I got here.

Wendy: Yeah.

Laura: I mean living here is obviously different…

Wendy: Yes.

Laura: Yes. But I'm glad as a kid I got to sample the City a little bit before I moved here, so I knew what I was getting myself into…

Wendy: Yeah exactly..so it wasn't overwhelming…

Laura: It wasn't…and I think the longer you live here…you understand that Manhattan is a big place…but it's just a bunch of different little neighborhoods…

Wendy: Yeah…a patchwork quilt…

Laura: Once you get familiar with those neighborhoods, it feels easy. I love living in NY…it's funny, because I used to say…ugh…I could never live there…(laughing)

Wendy: (laughing) Yes…

Laura: Coming from the country..but at this point, I don't see myself living anywhere else!

Wendy: Yeah, yeah…so many diverse neighborhoods with their own wonderful flavors…that you can explore if you feel like it…

Laura: Yeah, exactly! And so many wonderful restaurants. I love going out to eat…

Wendy: Me too…you just walk wherever you want, and see a great place, and walk in…

Laura: Exactly. It's fun…it's like a little experiment every weekend…

Wendy: Yeah! That's how I feel about it too! I think this has been a wonderful interview…

Laura: This has really been a pleasure…it was great talking to you, Wendy…

Wendy: Great talking to you, Laura! Thanks again…

Laura: Thank you!
Laura Halzack in the Paul Taylor Dance Company's 'De Sueños'

Laura Halzack in the Paul Taylor Dance Company's "De Sueños"

Photo © & courtesy of Tom Caravaglia

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