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Lila York (born 29 November 1948) is an American dancer and choreographer based in New York City. She studied English Literature at Skidmore College before studying ballet and modern dance at the Martha Graham Center of Contemporary Dance and with Paul Sanasardo. York joined the Paul Taylor Dance Company in 1973 where she danced for more than a decade. After leaving the company, she left the "very heart of American modern dance" to become one of "ballet's most sought-after choreographers", working with many of the world's foremost ballet companies.[1][2]

Early life and trainingEdit

York was born on 29 November 1948 in Syracuse, New York.[3] She began taking classical ballet classes recreationally at the age of thirteen from Gertrude Hallenbeck.[2] She graduated as an English Literature major from Skidmore College in Saratoga Springs, New York with the aspirations of becoming a writer.[2][4] Shortly after, York had a change of heart and decided to pursue ballet and modern dance at the Martha Graham Center of Contemporary Dance and received a two-year scholarship to train under Paul Sanasardo.[3][4] She also took classes with the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater.[2] She was the editorial assistant at Grove Press and a waitress while training as a dancer in New York.[2]


New York magazine called York "the finest [dancer] by far" to have belonged to the Paul Taylor Dance Company.[5] She joined the company in 1973 where she created numerous roles in many of Paul Taylor's works.[3] At 5 ft 0 in (152 cm) tall, Taylor said to York, "I'm not taking you because of your height; I'm taking you in spite of your height."[2] Critics have often referred to York as the long time muse of Taylor.[6][7][8] Her first piece at the dance company was Esplanade; the first piece Taylor choreographed after retiring as a dancer.[9] York called the piece "one of his most important works".[9]

York left the company in 1985 and collaborated with Martha Clarke on Vienna: Lusthaus and the play The Garden of Earthly Delights which won the Drama Desk Award for Unique Theatrical Experience.[3] York's signature piece, Rapture, was created in 1995 for the Juilliard Dance Ensemble.[5][10] She created the piece in memory of two colleagues, Clark Tippett and Christopher Gillis, who died from AIDS complications during the 80s AIDS epidemic.[2][11] Rapture is set to excerpts from Sergei Prokofiev's No. 3 and No. 5 piano concertos and was widely critically acclaimed.[5][2][12] Bruce Marks, the director of Boston Ballet, was at the premiere performance and said, "I was just knocked out. I was struck by her ability to bring out the quality of each dancer, and the energy and originality in music I knew very well. I went because Lila was staging Taylor's Company B for us, and then I was on my feet with everyone else."[2]

In 1996, Boston Ballet commissioned York to create Celts.[2] Her motivations behind the piece were to celebrate her heritage and also, in part, her parent's fiftieth wedding anniversary.[2] Christine Temin from The Boston Globe called the work "an astonishing array of dance images of Ireland, a piece that is both profound and thrilling."[13] An excerpt from the piece previewed during halftime at a Boston Celtics basketball game in November 1996.[2]

In 2013, York adapted Margaret Atwood's dystopian novel The Handmaid's Tale into a full-length ballet for the Royal Winnipeg Ballet.[14][15] It was remounted and performed at the National Arts Centre in Ottawa in 2015 for the 30th anniversary of the novel.[16] Holly Harris from the Winnipeg Free Press said "York's vision breathes new life into a venerable Canadian classic while literally embodying the story's dark forces, with its sobering message as timely -- and relevant -- as ever."[17] York has expressed that she is "interested in ballet taking on story ballets that speak to our time and our issues".[18]

Tobi Tobias from New York magazine said, "her choreographic technique is wonderfully able" and that "York knows how to calibrate her movement vocabulary, how to keep her stage picture compelling, how to work solo or paired figures against large, spontaneous-looking ensemble formations, how to establish mood without lapsing into portentousness or sentimentality."[3]

She has choreographed works for such companies as Atlanta Ballet, Ballet Memphis, Ballet West, the Birmingham Royal Ballet, Cincinnati Ballet, Colorado Ballet, Houston Ballet, Kansas City Ballet, Louisville Ballet, Milwaukee Ballet, Norwegian National Ballet, Orlando Ballet, Pacific Northwest Ballet, Paul Taylor Dance Company, Pennsylvania Ballet, San Francisco Ballet, the Scottish Ballet, Tulsa Ballet, the Royal Danish Ballet, and Washington Ballet.[3][19][20]

Personal lifeEdit

York was married to Donald York, a composer, for much of her dancing career.[21] They had been long-time friends and dated in middle school.[21] She introduced him to Taylor and Donald York became the musical director, conductor, pianist, composer, and arranger for the Paul Taylor Dance Company.[21] In an interview with Dance Magazine, she stated she's "half-Irish, half-Scot".[2]


Choreographed worksEdit

  • All American (2001)
  • Breathless (2002)
  • Celts (1996)
  • Concerto 488 Sense of Spring (2000)
  • Concerto in Pieces (2000)
  • Continuum (2017)
  • Coronach (2013)
  • Echoes of the Jazz Age (2000)
  • El Grito (1997)
  • Gloria (1999)
  • Memoir 2 (2000)
  • Millions of Instructions Per Second (2004)
  • Ode to Joy (1998)
  • Postcards from Home (2004)
  • Psalms (1992)
  • Rapture (1995)
  • Rules of the Game (1999)
  • Sanctum (1997)
  • Shoot the Moon (2003)
  • Strays (1991)
  • The America Variations (1995)
  • The Handmaid’s Tale (2014)
  • The Ring (1985)
  • Windhover (1995)

Chamber worksEdit

  • Beloved (1991)
  • L’Histoire du Soldat (1988)
  • Memoir (1998)
  • Pilgrim’s Song (2005)
  • Requiem (1990)
  • Sharehi (1989)
  • Solo (1986)
  • Sostenuto (2008)
  • Widow’s Walk (2004)


  1. ^ Karen Campbell (16 March 1998). "Dancing for 'Joy' - Everything comes together in choreographer Lila York's 'Ode' for Boston Ballet". Boston Herald. Archived from the original on 17 November 2018. Retrieved 5 January 2017 – via HighBeam Research. Cite uses deprecated parameter |dead-url= (help)
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m Elizabeth Zimmer (1 July 1996). "Lila York: Barnstorming America for Dance". Dance Magazine. Retrieved 5 January 2017.
  3. ^ a b c d e f Debra Craine and Judith Mackrell (2010). The Oxford Dictionary of Dance. Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/acref/9780199563449.001.0001. ISBN 9780199563449.CS1 maint: uses authors parameter (link)
  4. ^ a b Susan Ouellette (September 2013). "A Handmaid's Tale". Just Dance!. Vol. 2 no. I. Retrieved 3 January 2017.
  5. ^ a b c Tobi Tobias (15 March 1999). "Lila York". New York magazine. Retrieved 3 January 2017.
  6. ^ Joseph Mazo (October 1991). Paul's Women: Motivator, Matriarch, Muse. Dance Magazine. ISSN 0011-6009.
  7. ^ Holly Harris (23 September 2013). "An Audience with Lila York". The Dance Current. Retrieved 3 January 2017.
  8. ^ Peter Morrell (30 September 2013). "Royal Winnipeg Ballet Premieres 'The Handmaid's Tale'". The Cultural Voyager. Retrieved 3 January 2017.
  9. ^ a b Scott Iwasaki (22 January 2006). "Dance captures everyday moves". Deseret News. Retrieved 5 January 2017.
  10. ^ Kevin Prokosh (24 April 2013). "Atwood's 'Powerful Story' Inspires RWB Season Opener". Winnipeg Free Press. Retrieved 5 January 2017 – via Highbeam Research.[dead link]
  11. ^ Marc Shulgold (15 March 2007). "Past kicks in for choreographer 'Celts' creator found her own Irish heritage dancing in her head.(Spotlight)". Rocky Mountain News. Archived from the original on 16 November 2018. Retrieved 5 January 2017 – via Highbeam Research. Cite uses deprecated parameter |dead-url= (help)
  12. ^ Jackie McGlone (11 April 1999). "Looking to; the afterlife". Sunday Herald. Archived from the original on 19 November 2018. Retrieved 5 January 2017 – via Highbeam Research. Cite uses deprecated parameter |dead-url= (help)
  13. ^ Christine Temin (22 March 1996). "`Hot & Cool': A risk pays off". The Boston Globe. Retrieved 5 January 2017 – via Highbeam Research.[dead link]
  14. ^ Britannica Book of the Year 2014. Encyclopedia Britannica. 1 March 2014. ISBN 9781625131713. Retrieved 3 January 2017.
  15. ^ Performing Arts: Year In Review 2013. Encyclopedia Britannica. 30 January 2014. Retrieved 3 January 2017.
  16. ^ "Canada's Royal Winnipeg Ballet". National Arts Centre. 2015. Retrieved 5 January 2017.
  17. ^ Holly Harris (18 October 2013). "Brave New Work". Winnipeg Free Press. Archived from the original on 17 November 2018. Retrieved 5 January 2017 – via Highbeam Research. Cite uses deprecated parameter |dead-url= (help)
  18. ^ Jen Zoratti (12 October 2013). "Timely Tale". Winnipeg Free Press. Retrieved 5 January 2017 – via Highbeam Research.[dead link]
  19. ^ Natasha Gauthier (19 January 2015). "Q and A with Lila York: In the mind of The Handmaid". Ottawa Citizen. Retrieved 3 January 2017.
  20. ^ "Lila York". Milwaukee Ballet. 2016. Retrieved 3 January 2017.
  21. ^ a b c Jackie McGlone (8 April 1999). "York takes a rapturous step back to her roots". The Scotsman. Archived from the original on 20 November 2018. Retrieved 5 January 2017 – via Highbeam Research. Cite uses deprecated parameter |dead-url= (help)

External linksEdit