Michael Apuzzo. Photo by Jordan Matter.

A Visit with Paul Taylor dance Michael Apuzzo

I first met Michael Apuzzo while working on a Dance Magazine story. Now in his fifth season at Paul Taylor Dance Company, Apuzzo has written a book, Flying Through Yellow to tell his own coming of age story as an artist. He visited with A + C editor Nancy Wozny below.

A + C: From a student at Yale University to dancing with Paul Taylor Dance Company is an unlikely story. What motivated you to write a book? Who is your ideal reader?

Michael Apuzzo: I wrote Flying Through Yellow for someone like a young me—who at age 16—had a strong interest in the arts but had no idea how to be a professional performer. Growing up, I searched for a book by a professional performer about what it was like to be an artist. Once I became one, I wrote the book that I wanted to read as a young, aspiring artist. This book is designed for young adults who want to pursue their artistic interests professionally but don’t necessarily know how to do so successfully and would need to hear how someone average like myself, with all the same fears and concerns, pursued an artistic profession.

I can easily see a lecture circuit coming from this book. You have a motivational speaker tone in these pages. Are you ready for that?

MA:  We are living in a time of growing acceptance and pride for the attributes that make us unique. This is also a time when teen bullying is being exposed and dealt with nationally. Part of Flying Through Yellow discusses my own realization and struggle of my sexuality because it was a major part of my development, and is still a glaring yellow light many young adults are scared to drive through. My disastrous first sexual encounter landed me face to face with the law, therapy, and my own forced self-awareness, but it was through that struggle I learned to accept who I was and what I wanted in life. My hope is that other struggling artists will identify with that motivation to push themselves to continue on their paths.

Whether through motivational lectures, after school group meetings and/or increasing readership as I sell my books, I want those who come across Flying Through Yellow  to take to heart the lessons I’ve learned driving down the roads of my life and apply them to their own. I would encourage anyone that it’s never too late to start! So the next time a yellow light appears in your life, you must, with complete commitment, do only one thing…let yourself go.

You discovered dance late in life, yet landed in Paul Taylor’s company. To what do you owe your dancing success?

MA: When I first saw the Paul Taylor Dance Company, I immediately fell in love with the dancers and choreography, and I remember exactly where I sat in the theater when I thought to myself, “I can do that!” Envisioning where you want to be in life is key to any artist’s success. I owe a great deal of my success and happiness to my own hard work and determination to get there, but I thankfully had help along the way. My first break happened in college when, as a theater student, I auditioned for an original production of Miss Julie at the Yale Rep that combined stage acting with choreographed dance. Once I moved to New York I got cast in regional productions of  West Side Story as part of the male ensemble that danced the original stage choreography. Then I went on tour with Movin’ Out, a Broadway musical of all new modern dance. Once I returned, a spot opened up in Paul Taylor, which was still the company I followed and admired, and I got it. My professional path gradually pushed me more and more toward dancing, and the more I did it, the more I fell in love with it.

You are currently dancing with one of the most prestigious dance company’s in the country with a hefty touring schedule. How do the writing and dancing lives work together?

MA: The title of this book came to me when I was on a flight to New York and looked out the window to see thousands of bright yellow lights shining on the streets below. Coming back from my first tour with the Paul Taylor Dance Company, I realized that I was living my dream as a professional performer and “flying through yellow” into the big city, where my dream came true. I actually wrote the book while dancing on tour over the past few years. Every time I hit the stage I felt inspired, and often during my bow at the end of a show I thought about what I wanted to write about next in the book. The book is told in 9.7 short chapters, and as I explain in the book, 97% is the goal I set for myself in high school to get an overall grade of “A+.” It’s also a goal you can set for yourself to fly through yellow. I didn’t write a Chapter 10 to this book because that implies that everything is said and done—that I have pursued my dream, my dream has come to fruition, and that I have nothing left to learn or share. The truth is…I’m still driving! I don’t know where the next yellow light in my life is, and whether I’ll continue dancing in this company or find something completely different to pursue, but I’ve got my eyes peeled and am ready to fly through yellow.

Flying Through Yellow

Michael Apuzzo