Michael Novak became the second Artistic Director in the history of the Paul Taylor Dance Foundation in September 2018, upon the death of Founding Artistic Director Paul Taylor the previous month. Mr. Novak was a critically-acclaimed dancer with the Company from 2010 – 2019.
“Paul Taylor knew what he was doing when he left his modern dance organization in the capable, creative hands of Michael Novak […] He not only cares about modern dance, but he also knows how to keep the memory of Taylor – the strange parts, just as much as the joyful – fully alive.”
– The New York Times
Raised in Rolling Meadows, IL, Mr. Novak began studying dance at age ten. At 12 he developed a severe speech impediment that required intensive therapy. Dance became a liberating and vital force for self-expression. “I wanted nothing more than to achieve in dancing that sense of effortlessness and grace that were so difficult for me to find while speaking aloud,” he said. “With dancing, there were no limits to what I could express.” In 2001, Mr. Novak was offered a Presidential Scholarship to attend The University of the Arts in Philadelphia to pursue training in jazz and ballet. The following year, he undertook an apprenticeship at the Pennsylvania Academy of Ballet Society, where he remained until 2004.
Mr. Novak was admitted to Columbia University’s School of General Studies where he was awarded scholarships for academic excellence, graduating in 2009 with a BA in Dance Phi Beta Kappa and magna cum laude with Departmental Honors. He became a member of the Columbia Ballet Collaborative, the University’s resident company, and was named Artistic Associate responsible for advising on the curation of resident choreographers and directing the group’s branding and promotion. At Columbia, Mr. Novak became immersed in the study of dance history, which ignited his passionate devotion to modern dance. He developed a keen interest in the work of François Delsarte, the 19th Century French movement theorist who codified the system linking emotion and gesture that would inspire the first generation of American modern dancers. A highlight of his studies at Columbia was performing Mr. Taylor’s solo in Aureole, which led him to embrace the Taylor repertoire.
In a 2009 program celebrating Serge Diaghilev at Columbia’s Miller Theatre, Mr. Novak embodied Vaslav Nijinsky’s role in L’Après-midi d’un faune with an authenticity that brought him to the attention of dance critics and scholars. He later performed works by Bill T. Jones and Stephen Petronio and danced with Gibney Dance and Daniel Gwirtzman Dance Company. He has also studied at Springboard Danse Montreal under Alexandra Wells and Coleman Lemieux & Compagnie.
His Paul Taylor Dance Company debut in the 2010-11 season earned him a nomination for the Clive Barnes Foundation Dance Award. During his nine-year career he danced 57 roles in 50 Taylor dances, 13 of which were made on him, and created roles for five of the Taylor Company Commission choreographers. In announcing Mr. Novak’s appointment as Artistic Director Designate in March 2018, Mr. Taylor said, “Michael has mastered our repertory and steeped himself in dance history. He understands the need to nurture the past, present and future of modern dance. I look forward to working with him and preparing him to assume artistic leadership of my Company.”
Since his appointment, the Company continues its place as one of the world’s premiere modern dance companies – with a robust international touring program, dynamic online presence, and ever-expanding repertory drawing from the Taylor canon, important historical masterpieces, and the foundation’s robust contemporary commissioning program. Since his appointment, Novak partnered with Orchestra of St. Luke’s on their inaugural Bach Festival, curating the first-ever presentation of Paul Taylor’s six iconic dances to baroque composer Johann Sebastian Bach; created “The Celebration Tour,” an international touring retrospective of Paul Taylor’s expansive repertoire; received significant critical acclaim during his first season as Artistic Director at the David H. Koch Theater at Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts; launched PTDF Digital (a multifaceted resource for the sharing and generating of unique digital content, conversations, commissions and classes); and co-directed the Company’s first-ever virtual benefit “Modern is Now: Stories of our Future” – the second most successful fundraising event in the Foundation’s 67-year history.
“I am determined to further Paul Taylor’s vision,” Mr. Novak said upon assuming the role of Artistic Director, “and to bring his gems to every part of the globe… to honor past dance makers and encourage future artists… and to make sure modern dance remains a transformative force for good in our lives long into the future.”