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Final bow ahead, decades of memories behind: A talk with Paul Taylor Dance Company’s Christina Lynch Markham

Sean Mahoney, Christina Lynch Markham and Company in Paul Taylor's 'Concertiana'. Photo by Paul B. Goode.
Sean Mahoney, Christina Lynch Markham and Company in Paul Taylor's 'Concertiana'. Photo by Paul B. Goode.

It might be the cliché of all clichés, but it really can be about the friends we make along the way. That can be especially true in creative endeavors, where a unique kind of camaraderie grows from togetherness in intense, demanding experiences. The work is thrilling and special – but the people, places and memories to which it leads us can be the true treasure.   

Christina Lynch Markham in Paul Taylor's 'Arden Court'. Photo by Tom Carvaglia.
Christina Lynch Markham in Paul Taylor’s ‘Arden Court’. Photo by Tom Carvaglia.

Christina Lynch Markham seems to viscerally understand all of that. Having danced with Paul Taylor Dance Company for over two decades, and now a bona fide leader in the company’s community, she’ll take her final bow this spring. She remains gracious, humble and deeply grounded in what she’s experienced on her way to the top of the field. Speaking with loving reverence for the work, she waxes nostalgic about the people and places she’s encountered along the way. 

Retirement from the stage doesn’t mean the “end”, of course, and Lynch Markham will continue to leave her mark. In that ethos of remaining connected to her roots, those opportunities she had as a budding dancer, she’s passionate about nurturing the next generation of dancers. Devoted to Taylor’s legacy and the field of concert dance, she’ll be part of helping it step forward from firm foundation. She can speak about it best – take it away, Christina! 

Congratulations on more than two decades with the Taylor company! Looking toward your final bow, how are you feeling? It’s a milestone, for sure! 

“I continue to love the work – it’s been my focus, my everything. I got hooked on the movement at my first Taylor intensive. I just loved the athleticism, and that you really have to dance with your partner. That connectivity, it’s really like that in the company…it’s a collective whole. 

Christina Lynch Markham in Paul Taylor's 'Changes'. Photo by Whitney Browne.
Christina Lynch Markham in Paul Taylor’s ‘Changes’. Photo by Whitney Browne.

The work is so expansive, all of the running and skipping of Esplanade…and then it’s also working on lines and all the more technical work. It’s a pleasure to work on both, and also to be coached by those who coached the masters. All of that drew me to Taylor’s work – and I just kept coming to class. And the rest is history, I guess! 

I always wanted to be a dancer, but I never knew if I could make it happen…I dreamed, but never really allowed myself to think that it could happen. I’ve had so much luck, but I’ll give myself credit that it’s also been a lot of hard work. 

All of my teachers…they’ve been nothing but kind. They pushed and challenged me, but never tore me down to the point where I didn’t want to do it. I always want to be that for younger dancers, and through that pay it forward. There are so many beautiful dancers I’ve met through the years, and will continue to meet!”

Looking back, what are some key memories that you’d like to highlight for our readers? What was it like to work with Taylor, and what has it been like to help keep his legacy alive following his passing? 

Christina Lynch Markham in Paul Taylor's 'Company B'. Photo by Whitney Browne.
Christina Lynch Markham in Paul Taylor’s ‘Company B’. Photo by Whitney Browne.

“I loved Mr. Taylor choreographing on me! One time, I was watching company repertory on my device (we’re always doing that…if you come into the studio, you’ll see us on our devices, but we’re not on social media – we’re watching repertory and learning, reviewing, et cetera), and Mr. Taylor said, ‘Can anyone whistle?’ I jumped up and said, ‘I can!’ The whole room exploded in laughter! He put that in the work, and then also put me in another duet. Sometimes, you just have to step up, even if it’s not in your nature. That’s always how I’ve been, even in the second company. 

For example, I got the nerve to ask to teach at The Taylor School while in the second company…that’s unheard of! When I got into the main company, right off the bat I could go to universities and set work while also performing – so that wasn’t really a switch for me. 

Also while in the second company, I remember how we’d tour around in a bus and dance in really any venue. We were asked to put repertory on more novice dancers out in the community. That helped sharpen my pedagogical skills. The Taylor repertory is hard! How do you translate the spirit of the work while also giving it the gravitas that it deserves?”

Going way back, it’s striking that you started dancing at age 13, relatively old for a dancer. What helped you to establish a vibrant career as a dance artist despite that relatively late start? How might you advise young dancers to approach unique things about them that might traditionally be seen as liabilities, even ‘weaknesses’? 

Sean Mahoney and Christina Lynch Markhama in Paul Taylor's 'Aureole'. Photo by Whitney Browne.
Sean Mahoney and Christina Lynch Markhama in Paul Taylor’s ‘Aureole’. Photo by Whitney Browne.

“Getting into the company was not an easy feat. I auditioned six times! I got a little further each time. They were always so kind. I continued to take classes at The Taylor School, and I found that the movement fit my body, and was good for my mind, too. It was a mental challenge; I couldn’t just go on autopilot. 

I think that mental work was important for me as a young dancer. It can be really easy to just go through the motions, especially with where technology is today. For young dancers, do your research and find what works for your body, and go toward that. Get involved – volunteer for the organization that you love, and get to know the artists if you can.”

Looking at your time with Taylor, what are you most proud of? What do you think your unique contributions to the company and its work have been? 

“I really like that dancers newer to the repertory come and ask me for tips on how to achieve something that they’re doing, bring a character to life, et cetera. Sometimes we get similar notes, and one way of putting a correction doesn’t translate to a dancer – it can help to see it another way, for it to really click. 

I love having an open door. Dancers come to my room, and I really enjoy cooking for them. I’ll say things like, ‘I’m testing out this new hot plate – come on over after the show!’ I love to organize group events, sometimes even having the company come to my house in Staten Island! 

Christina Lynch Markham. Photo by Bill Wadman.
Christina Lynch Markham. Photo by Bill Wadman.

It’s not only the hard work that’s been special but also the camaraderie, the time with the dancers…to break bread and share dance experiences, but also life experiences….that also shows onstage. It’s important. I go to work and dance with my friends every day! I’ll miss that the most, I think – the sense of community and connectedness.”

As a field veteran, any other words of wisdom for young dance artists that you’d like to put out there? What do you wish you had known as you were starting out? 

“If you have an educator or mentor who’s cutting off your light, try to find another. Not every educator is for every student. I might not be everyone’s cup of tea, and I’m okay with that! Have multiple teachers and take multiple classes, to find what nurtures you. Remember that perfection doesn’t exist. I’d rather have someone who’s wobbling in a relevé than emotionless. And call me up – we’ll hang out! We dancers need that, that’s what I had! Find your artists, your community.”

What next, where to from here? What adventures lie around the bend for you, at least which you anticipate at this point?

Nick Ceynowa and Christina Lynch Markham in Paul Taylor's 'Company B'. Photo by Tom Carvaglia.
Nick Ceynowa and Christina Lynch Markham in Paul Taylor’s ‘Company B’. Photo by Tom Carvaglia.

“It’s a very exciting time for the Taylor Company! We’re expanding into midtown, growing the education program under Ms. Carolyn Adams. She knows my passion and love for education. I think that the future will hold a lot of that for me – passing on those tips and tricks to the next generation of dancers, and also connecting that with the work of other artists. 

At the end of his life, Mr. Taylor shifted the company’s focus. His vision included work from other choreographers: Larry Keigwin, Doug Varone and many more. It’s really exciting how dancers nowadays can get that right off the bat, working in many styles and with many different artists. It’s a lot of fun! I’m excited for the future of the organization and the field.

My dance career is everybody that came before me…I’ve had such wonderful mentors. I hope that everyone gets to experience the magic that I’ve gotten to…or come to Taylor, and I’ll help you find it!”

By Kathryn Boland of Dance Informa.

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