In the most revealing sequence of Dancemaker, we watch the celebrated dancer Paul Taylor in a 1962 presentation of ”Aureole,” a quietly unfolding solo passage in which he twists his limbs with ecstatic slow abandon. The film cuts between clips of this legendary performance and shots taken at a rehearsal loft 35 years later, as Taylor, now a choreographer in his late 60s, stares at a younger dancer who attempts to re-create the meticulous motions. (It’s like seeing paint-by-numbers virtuosity.) Dancemaker, an Oscar-nominated documentary that follows a season in the life of Taylor’s company, is far from any sort of expose, yet this unabashedly admiring portrait hardly needs to uncover warts to find the drama in its subject. It’s there in Taylor’s aging cherub’s face — that of a once-untouchable paragon reduced, by the natural diminution of his body, to the status of artistic father figure.
There’s a sadness to that, of course, yet Taylor, it’s clear, revels in his role as backstage shaper of movement. He’s the gentlest of taskmasters, an elfin king with whims of iron, and Dancemaker takes its tone of droll ebullience from Taylor’s saucy, childlike nature, his ability to see the subtlest shades of experience in one sublimely executed gesture. B+