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I can’t write about dance without thinking about time, especially how work relates to the past and present and what it might say about the future.
My head was in the past a lot this year. I wrote about the 50th anniversary of Judson Dance Theater, an early ‘60s avant-garde modern dance collective that performed mostly in NYC. The collective came together through a choreography workshop taught by Robert Dunn, who had studied with John Cage.
UW dance professor Jennifer Salk was a critical resource for me in writing this article. She pointed out that an important legacy of Judson was the idea that any body can dance. Painters, poets and musicians participated as choreographers and performers. Salk also mentioned that this may have contributed to, in the decades that followed, choreographers hiring dancers not for a particular image, but rather for whom they were inside and out. Another hallmark of Judson was that its artists incorporated pedestrian movement and props. They said “no” to virtuosity.
Mark Haim’s piece, x2, performed at On the Boards this spring, masterfully evoked Judson-era choreographic choices for me. In piece #2, This Land is Your Land, Haim’s dancers demonstrated the fine nuances of walking. You can’t get much more pedestrian that that! Regarding his choice of dancers, Haim told me via e-mail that he “was looking for as diverse a cast make-up as possible.” Sounds like every body to me.
Judson’s legacy persists. It’s too important not to.
Leslie holds a master’s degree in dance history from the University of California-Riverside. She frequently contributes to Dance Teacher magazine and has written for City Arts and other Seattle publications.