Magazine article Artforum International

The Year in Dance

Magazine article Artforum International

The Year in Dance

Article excerpt

SATURDAY, OCTOBER 19. A conversation in the Donald B. and Catherine C. Marron Atrium at the Museum of Modern Art in New York during the first week of "Some sweet day," a three-week-long performance series featuring six choreographers. The program is curated by Ralph Lemon, a choreographer himself, and Jenny Schlenzka, associate curator at M0A4A PS.1, along with MOMA producer Jill A. Samuels. The conversation features Jerome Bel and Steve Paxton and is moderated by Lemon and Sabine Breitwieser, MOMA's chief curator of media and performance.

Here, near the beginning, Breitwieser and Paxton are talking:

  Breitwieser: Steve. Satisfyin Lover. From 1967.
  I couldn't find out where you performed it first.
  Paxton: Salt Lake City.
  SB: So what was the scenery like? Was this a
  proscenium setting or was it a gallery setting?
  SP: It was a ballroom.
  SB: A ballroom! How nice. So you were on the same
  floor with the audience? There was no separation?
  SP: Very much like here.
  SB: Very much like this. That's very interesting.
  Because this shows us this kind of assumption that
  dance and the visual arts--or dance institutions and
  the museum world--[are] kind of juxtaposed, [are]
  kind of separated, is kind of a stereotype which is
  actually not true. I even found a note that you first
  presented your Contact Improvisation at
  John Weber Gallery. Is this true?
  SP: Yes.
  SB: So how do you see your work situated and how do
  you think--or maybe it didn't. How did this setting
  [the atrium] have an impact on how you presented your
  work?
  SP: [pause] None.
  SB: None ... good. Okay ... So you did it exactly
  the same as in '67?
  SP: Yeah.
  SB: There was also the same big audience, excited
  audience? How was it?
  SP: Yes.

It's the first week of "Some sweet day," and things are off to an interesting start. We've all just seen a version of Bel's The Show Must Go On, 2001, edited to accommodate the fluid attention spans of the everyday atrium crowd. That piece, a sort of pastiche of the ordinary danced by a group of twenty pro and amateur performers, is made up of a series of simple vignettes scored both to and by pop music (the Beatles' "Come Together" plays and the dancers come together; Lionel Richie's "Ballerina Girl" plays and the "girls" mime ballet steps). The Show Must Go On was presented "alongside" (i.e., in the same week as) Paxton's canonical Satisfyin Lover, 1967, and State, 1968. Satisfyin Lover is simply (and "simply" is its donnee) a few dozen ordinary people in everyday clothes walking across a stage; State features the same famous ordinary people coming together at the center of that stage to stand "still" for nine minutes.

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

Lemon tells us that Paxton thought that pairing Satisfyin Lover and The Show Must Go On was "living out a certain fantasy [Lemon] had about these two works." But it's a potent fantasy and thus a structuring one, and it was Lemon's genius to bring together works frequently seen as cornerstones of "postmodern" dance and the de-skilling strategy that has chaperoned many art-critical engagements with performance. What emerged were two very different takes on the meaning of those strategies and two or three very different ideas about the role of dance in the museum. Paxton's laconic answers above are less churlish stonewalling than examples of a differend, and the dissonance between those who aspire to the museum or think inside its terms and those for whom it's simply another horizontal "space" to work in, between two (reluctant?) heroes of the antivirtuosic, was spectacularly dramatized at MOMA.

All this was against the backdrop of the fiftieth anniversary of that magic fiasco--that "parade of formal explorations," as Paxton has put it--called Judson. And all this was in the wake of a still too quiet but resounding 1 event in the dance landscape--the recent folding of the Merce Cunningham Dance Company, the historic sine qua non for Cunningham technique, whose dissolution marked the symbolic burial of "modern" dance. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.