- Cornelius Brown (standing), Javier Dzul,and Robin Taylor of Dzul Dance.
Dzul Dance began as a love story. Robin Taylor grew up in Millbrook, where she was an avid athlete. At the age of 14, she entered the Millbrook School. Because they didn’t offer field hockey, Taylor switched to dance. She became obsessed with dancing, and after graduation joined the Lori Belilove Company, touring with “The Art of Isadora Duncan.” Taylor also became a competitive ballroom dancer.
But the dance world can be limiting, so Taylor entered college to study forensic psychology. Eventually, she graduated John Jay College with a master’s degree in the field. Taylor went on to work for the FBI and the Manhattan district attorney. Taylor met Javier Dzul in 2001 at an exercise class. Dzul had been born into a Mayan tribe in the Yucatán, where he was trained as a tribal dancer. His actual name is Wayol Kikin Bi Kukul Balan Dzul Chiquini, meaning “Son of the Moon, Feathered Snake Jaguar.” Each such dancer has an animal spirit, called a wayob. Dzul’s is the jaguar. He stalked these beasts to learn their movements, which he incorporated into his dances.
Dzul went on to formally study dance at the Universidad de Veracruz, and to be a principal dancer in the Ballet Nacional de Mexico. After studying ballet in Cuba, Dzul moved to New York City, where he attended the Martha Graham School of Contemporary Dance, and performed with numerous companies, including the Alvin Ailey Repertory Ensemble.
In Dzul’s solos, the range of his study is visible. He moves with the undulant muscularity of a jaguar, and with the rigor of a trained dancer. Echoes of Martha Graham’s heroic tableaux are visible in his choreography, as are elements of Mayan cosmology. Like pre-Columbian Mexican art, Dzul’s imagery is intricate, epic, and profuse.
Meeting Dzul, Robin Taylor suddenly had a reason to dance again. She ditched forensic psychology, and helped found Dzul Dance in 2003. In addition to dancing, Taylor functions as publicist, fundraiser, and rehearsal director for the company. “I’m the staff,” she jokes. Taylor and Dzul were married in 2005.
Dzul creates evening-length dances, which usually begin with a ritual and weave narrative themes into a spectacle. Over time, Dzul’s dance pieces have involved more aerial elements: trapezes, rings and sashes. “He deals with Mayan mythology a lot, in his choreography, so he wanted to take it up in the air, to represent the celestial plane,” Taylor explains. “This way, he could depict the heavens, the human plane, and the Underworld.”
Celestial dancing involves risk. “We don’t use safeties. What we’re doing, you could die,” says Taylor. “I mean, it’s serious, serious circus aerial arts. It’s tricks, it’s drops. Javier needs at least 22 feet to perform his silk solos. It has that ‘wow’ factor.”
Their current show, “The Symbol Bearer,” includes guest aerialist Chelsea Bacon. “She does a piece on a chandelier that’s metal, with chains that hang down in loops,” narrates Taylor. “She does this very painful but very beautiful routine. It doesn’t look painful, but metal chains are painful when you’re hanging on them.” There’s also a guest contortionist: Anna Venizelos, formerly of Cirque du Soleil.
Now Dzul Dance returns to the Millbrook School, where Taylor first became a dancer.
Dzul Dance will perform “The Symbol Bearer” June 5 and 6 at the Chelsea Morrison Theater of the Millbrook School in Millbrook, June 5 and 6. (212) 352-3101; www.millbrook.org.