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Judson Dance Theater

Judson Dance Theater

(the following information is excerpted from the International Encyclopedia of Dance; read the entire entry here)

A cooperative for avant-grade choreography, the Judson Dance Theater began in the summer of 1962, when a group of young choreographers presented, at Judson Memorial Church in Greenwich Village, a concert of dances composed for Robert Dunn's choreography class. Dunn had taken a course in experimental music theory taught by John Cage and was invited by Cage to teach a choreography class along the same lines at the Merce Cunningham studio in the Living Theater building.

The choreographers of the Judson Dance Theater radically questioned established dance aesthetics, both in their dances and in the weekly workshop discussions. They rejected the conventions of both ballet and modern dance. They not only carried out experiments that called for a new theory of dance but also initiated political changes in the dance world and discovered methods of working collaboratively with musicians, designers, and one another. Attracting a grassroots audience of Greenwich Village artists and intellectuals, the Judson Dance Theater flourished as a popular center of radical experimentation.

Perhaps the most important legacy of Judson Dance Theater was the attitude that anything might be looked at as a dance—not only the activities of a dancer but also those of a visual artist, a musician, or everyday people. This redefinition of dance was strongly articulated in Jill Johnston's dance reviews in the Village Voice.


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Rudy Perez

Rudy Perez 

(The following excerpt comes from the New York Times obituary printed on 18 October 2023. Read the entire article here.)

In the early 1960s, in New York, Mr. Perez was among a cohort of avant-garde artists who blurred the lines of their disciplines and employed all sorts of quotidian and often absurdist actions in their work. Performance art and conceptual art, experimental theater, music and dance seemed all of a piece, their practitioners united in challenging traditions. Many of them were members of Judson Dance Theater, an experimental collective in Greenwich Village.

Mr. Perez later carried the Judson spirit with him, in pieces that defied categories and narratives. In "Bang Bang," a piece he mounted in 1966, he stalked the stage, dressed in coveralls and work goggles and brandishing a large pole, while the sound of an episode of Julia Child's cooking show devoted to asparagus was heard in the background; you could hear Ms. Child's high, piping voice declaiming the delights of that vegetable.

That same year, Mr. Perez performed what would become one of his best-known works, "Countdown," in which he sat majestically on a stool smoking a cigarette, his face impassive but streaked with paint, as a recording of French folk songs played.


Gus Solomons, Jr.

(The following excerpt from the Oxford African American Studies Center. Read the entire entry here.)

Solomons moved to New York City in 1962, where he shared a studio with a group of dancers that became known as Studio 9. Before founding his own dance company in 1971, he worked as a member of dance companies directed by Graham, Joyce Trisler, Pearl Lang, and Donald McKayle and gave solo performances with Trisler, Lang, McKayle, and Paul Sanasardo. Solomons worked with the Merce Cunningham Company in 1964 but left the troupe in 1968 after an injury. With Cunningham, Solomons created roles in two important dance pieces, Winterbranch and Rainforest. In 1965 Solomons joined the Martha Graham Company, but he left after only one season. The Solomons Company/Dance was formed in 1971 to feature its founder's choreographic work. He was credited with more than twenty solo works for the McKayle, Graham, and Cunningham companies, and he choreographed more than 165 dances for his own company.

Solomons's degree in architecture was a critical element in his dance theory, and the design of structures played an important part in much of his choreography. The musical accompaniments to his works used speech and synthesized music, frequently including human sounds rarely associated with dance or music. Chryptych, presented in St. Mark's Church in New York, integrated dancers as part of the church structure by moving them through the reflection of the stained glass and subtly intimating religious statuary. Solomons referred to his own choreography as “kinetic autobiography.” Dance historians describe his choreographic interpretation as expressions of architecture, game forms, and geography. While many other black dancers and choreographers focused on the context and message of the piece, Solomons was adamant that his dance design allow the dancers room for interpretation. He spoke of his choreography as “energy-as-motion” rather than an interpretation of anger and a response to social oppression.


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Trisha Brown

(The following excerpt from the International Encyclopedia of Dance. Read the entire entry here.)

One of the key postmodern choreographers, Trisha Brown has developed a choreographic style that makes use of verbal wit and deadpan physical humor, problem-solving strategies, improvisatory structures, logical systems, unusual spaces, the protocol of the performance situation, syncopated rhythms, and her own movement style, which is vigorous, fluid, multifocal, and flexible. She was one of the founding members of the Judson Dance Theater and of the improvisational group Grand Union. In 1970 she formed the Trisha Brown Company.

Brown's earliest dances, such as Trillium (1962), a solo, and Lightfall (1963), a duet with Steve Paxton, were partial improvisations that allowed for naturally forceful actions and interactions, flyaway movements, perchings, and stillnesses. A number of her dances created during the 1960s dealt with the physical act of falling or with images of flight. Others were task performances in which the movements and, often, language were produced by prescribed goals for the performers and, occasionally, for the audience. In Rulegame 5 (1964), for example, five performers were instructed to negotiate their way along a multilevel course by talking to each other and making any necessary mutual adjustments. For the improvisational Yellowbelly (1969), Brown urged the audience to heckle her and egged them on to shout louder.

Brown is interested in the tension between the clarity of a movement idea and its physical distortion. This can be seen in Roof Piece and in such dances as Discs (1973), in which three performers interrupt the movements of another, or Drift (1974). A more subtle distortion takes place in Brown's various accumulation pieces, such as Accumulation (1971), a solo for Brown that roots her to one spot while she repeats discrete gestures of different body parts according to a mathematical system.


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