In May 2008, Madelyn Ho decided on a whim to audition for the Paul Taylor Dance Company and Taylor 2. She was a Harvard premed student, just weeks from graduation, with only six months of exposure to the Taylor technique. “I wasn’t thinking about my chances,” Madelyn says. “I just thought it would be an awesome experience.” But Madelyn danced with a blazing energy suited perfectly to the grounded yet buoyant movement. And when the audition ended, she was still there. “Then Paul said to me, ‘I’d like you to be part of Taylor 2,’” she says. “I couldn’t believe it!” To those who have seen her dance, however, it’s clear the 23-year-old is a Taylor natural.
Madelyn’s path to the modern world was anything but straight. She studied ballet in her hometown of Sugar Land, TX, at BalletForte and thought briefly about pursuing a professional ballet career. But with impressive achievements in science, Madelyn chose the premed track instead. At Harvard, in 2004, she was determined to keep dance in her life and became involved in the Harvard Dance Program. After dabbling in modern dance for a while, she devoted herself more fully to it in the fall of her senior year. Dancing in David Parsons’ Etude was a high point. “I loved how athletic it was,” she gushes. “It was different from anything else I’d done.” After that she applied for and received a Harvard Artist Development Fellowship that allowed her to study modern dance in NYC during her winter break. And, since Parsons was a Paul Taylor dancer, she decided to attend the Taylor Winter Intensive while there. “The movement was foreign to me,” Madelyn remembers, “but there was something about it that felt natural.”
Back at Harvard, she studied with guest teacher and former Taylor star Ruth Andrien, who staged the classic Taylor work Aureole on the students. Taylor 2 also came to perform. “It was Taylor wonderland,” Madelyn says. Dancing with the company crossed her mind, but only as a far-off dream job. She went to the fateful audition anyway, and signed with Taylor 2 in June 2008, right before graduating Harvard.
Taylor 2 director Andy LeBeau says that Madelyn was an obvious choice for the junior company. “The Taylor style fits Madelyn’s body perfectly,” he says. “She’s both a mature mover and this cute ball of energy. She doesn’t segment the movement, but uses her whole body to dance.” Madelyn is also an extremely hard worker. “She has high expectations of herself,” he adds. “We tease her because she writes down every single count and step in her book.”
Madelyn brings this same dedication with her on the road: Taylor 2 performs, teaches classes, gives lecture/demonstrations and does educational outreach programs around the country. “I’ve had a lot of teachers who were willing to share what they loved,” she says. “I hope to do the same.”
Looking forward, Madelyn says she would be thrilled to join the main company someday, if Taylor invited her. And she eventually wants to return to graduate school to become a dance medicine specialist. That way, this scholar-slash-Taylorina will have it all.
Favorite TV show: “Glee”
Non-dance job: Volunteer emergency medical technician in Brooklyn, NY
Fave non-modern class: Ballet at the Ailey School, Peridance and Mark Morris Dance Center
Perfect day off: “Walking aimlessly around NYC with my friends.”
Photo by Erin Baiano/Courtesy Dance Magazine