Yvonne Rainer


April 2014
“JUDSON DANCE THEATER, a group of experimental artists who masterminded a series of performances from 1962 to 1964, altered the course of dance history.”
-Gia Kourlas, The New York Times


    Yvonne Rainer was a founder of the JUDSON DANCE THEATER in 1962.

    ASSISTED LIVING: GOOD SPORTS 2 (2011) and ASSISTED LIVING: DO YOU HAVE ANY MONEY? (2013), two recent dances by Yvonne Rainer, extend the choreographer’s formal concerns with tableaux vivants and assorted texts read or recited by the performers.

    GOOD SPORTS 2 began as a collection of New York Times photos, mainly from the sports section, accumulated by the choreographer for the several years. The photos were then distributed among the dancers Pat Catterson, Emily Coates, Patricia Hoffbauer, Keith Sabado, and Emmanuelle Phuon all of whom Rainer had previously worked with. Ultimately Good Sports 2 became a melange of sports and dance references, philosophical and political quotations, and choreographic metaphors suggesting group cooperation and sensitivity.

    ASSISTED LIVING: DO YOU HAVE ANY MONEY? is an amalgam of movement and speech derived from a number of different sources, including Rainer’s own choreographic imagination and her collaborative process with her dancers. The piece presents new challenges for the group in that they are required to deliver long monologues while performing intricate steps. The texts comprise quotes from authors as diverse as John Meynard Keynes, Emma Goldman, Pierre Proudhon, Adam Gopnik, and Herbert J. Gans. Following her customary penchant for radical juxtaposition, Rainer has taken the risky route of juxtaposing vaudevillian pratfalls with solemn socio-economic analyses. The dire times in which we live seem to demand such an approach.

    ADI/DHC Judson Dance Theater Exhibit
    In partnership with Dance Heritage Coalition, ADI presents an exhibit documenting the history and concepts behind the genre-defining Judson Dance Theater (JDT), a group of postmodern artists in lower Manhattan in the 1960s who rejected formal dance structures and redefined dance performance. The exhibit coincides with ADI’s presentation of JDT co-founder Yvonne Rainer performing two of her newest works April 25 & 26, 2014 and will also explore JDT’s influence on DC-area dancers and dancemakers. The exhibit will be open to ticketholders before and after Rainer’s performances and open to the public the week of April 28-May 3 during ADI’s normal business hours.

    Tour produced by Performa.

    Photo copyright Paula Court. Courtesy of Performa

    Rainer was born in San Francisco in 1934. She trained as a modern dancer in New York from 1957 and began to choreograph her own work in 1960. She was one of the founders of the Judson Dance Theater in 1962, the beginning of a movement that proved to be a vital force in modern dance in the following decades. Between 1962 and 1975 she presented her choreography throughout the United States and Europe, notably on Broadway in 1969, in Scandinavia, London, Germany, and Italy between 1964 and 1972, and at the Festival D’Automne in Paris in 1972. In 1968 she began to integrate short films into her live performances, and by 1975 she had made a complete transition to filmmaking. In the Spring of 1997 — to coincide with the release of MURDER and murder — complete retrospectives of the films of Yvonne Rainer were mounted at the Museum of Modern Art in San Francisco and at the Film Society of Lincoln Center in New York City. Her work has been seen internationally and rewarded with museum exhibitions, awards, and grants, most notably two Guggenheims, two Rockefellers, a Wexner, and a MacArthur. A selection of her poetry was published in 2011 by Paul Chan’s Badlands Unlimited.
    “JUDSON DANCE THEATER, a group of experimental artists who masterminded a series of performances from 1962 to 1964, altered the course of dance history. This wave of choreographers, inspired by composition workshops taught by Robert Ellis Dunn at Merce Cunningham’s studio, approached Judson Memorial Church as a space to show the pieces developed in the class after being turned down by the 92nd Street Y.

    In rejecting the traditional framework and overtly stylized expressiveness of modern dance, these artists cleared the air with works that showcased ordinary movement, nondancers and task-based choreography. Still, Judson was more than an exploration of the neutral body, and many of the diverse artists that emerged are now legends of postmodern dance: Trisha Brown, Lucinda Childs, David Gordon, Deborah Hay, Yvonne Rainer and Steve Paxton.”
    New Spaces for the Revolution -GIA KOURLAS, The New York Times

    “A collective of dancers, composers, and visual artists whose experiments gave rise to postmodern dance, the Judson Dance Theater began in the summer of 1962 with a concert by Yvonne Rainer, Steve Paxton, and other composition students of Robert Dunn at the Judson Memorial Church in Greenwich Village. Over the course of the next two years nearly two hundred dances were presented by the group. Together they challenged the prevailing aesthetic of modern dance, especially its use of narrative, myth, and psychology, while breaking new artistic ground. Collage, fragmentation, loosely-structured scores, radical juxtaposition, and chance were typical Judson methods; spontaneity, pedestrian movement, and a belief in the beauty of the ordinary were among the group’s shared values. A spirit of anarchy and permissiveness reigned, along with a minimalist impulse to pare dance to its essentials, as in Rainer’s celebrated “antidance” Trio A. Among the choreographers, in addition to Rainer and Paxton, who got their start at Judson were Trisha Brown, Meredith Monk, David Gordon, and Lucinda Childs.”
    Dance Heritage Coalition

    “Rainer was noted for an approach to dance that treated the body more as the source of an infinite variety of movements than as the purveyor of emotion or drama.”
    -Encyclopedia Britannica

    “Much of today’s experimental dance stems from a series of performances in 1962-64 that originated at Judson Memorial Church in Greenwhich Village. In this rebellion against convention in both modern-dance and ballet, dance itself seemed continually redefined. Judson Dance Theater was very much a phenomenon of the 1960’s.”
    -The New York Times, DANCE: JUDSON THEATER REMEMBERED, Anna Kisselgoff

    “In retrospect, several important individual choreographic styles grew out of the rich culture at Judson; Yvonne Rainers dialectical work, mixing ordinary or grotesque movement with traditional dance techniques, pushing the body’s operation and coordination to the limits, and testing extremes or freedom and control in the choreographic process…”
    –Sally Banes, Democracy’s Body: Judson Dance Theater

    “From employing unconventional methods for composition to stripping concert dance of its drama and theatricality, Judson Dance Theater challenged what audiences knew and accepted as dance. The group played a large role in heralding dance’s postmodern era, and its legacy continues today through the extensive oeuvre of many of the artists involved—including Trisha Brown, David Gordon and Yvonne Rainer—as well as the next generation like Susan Marshall, Bill T. Jones and Elizabeth Streb.”
    -Leslie Holleran, Dance Teacher Magazine

    “In the early 1960s this avant-garde collective of choreographers and other artists radically reshaped the world’s understanding of what dance could be, beginning investigations that, to some extent, continue.”
    -The New York Times, DANCE: JUDSON THEATER REMEMBERED, Anna Kisselgoff

    Interview Magazine: Yvonne Rainer

    Dance Heritage Coalition: Judson Church: Dance by George Jackson

    Watch: YVONNE RAINER – Spiraling Down & Assisted Living: Good Sports 2 (Assisted Living starts at minute marker 5:41)

    Talking Dance: Yvonne Rainer and Sally Banes

    Yvonne Rainer – Trio A

    Hand-Movie, de Yvonne Rainer (1966)