Magazine article The Spectator

Acclaimed Creations

Magazine article The Spectator

Acclaimed Creations

Article excerpt


White Oak Dance Project (Playhouse, Edinburgh)

San Francisco Ballet (Royal Opera House)

Those who think that the experimental, iconoclastic, `anti-everything' dance created in the 1960s by a group of North American dance makers has, 40 years on, lost its appeal and exceeded its sell-by date, should go and see PASTForward, White Oak Dance Project's new programme. Cleverly conceived in the form of a filmed documentary that links and introduces each of the 16 dances, the show isn't impregnated with sugary nostalgia. Neither does it indulge in a complacent and somewhat pompously celebratory look at a significant moment of dance history. PASTForward is, on the contrary, a lively and vibrant informal celebration of that genre controversially referred to as `post-modern dance', which demonstrates how the work of the Judson Church group - named after the Greenwich Village venue in which they performed - still has a lot to say.

In Edinburgh, viewers were first greeted in the theatre's foyer by community performers engaging in Huddle, a 1961 `sculpture in space' by Simone Forti, the sole choreographer on the programme who did not belong to the Judson group, but who worked extensively with the other post-- modernists and contributed greatly to the development of the genre. As Mikhail Baryshnikov - White Oak Dance Project's leading figure - told the audience at the beginning of the documentary that keeps the whole evening together, the achievements of the Judson group have long been unknown to many outside the United States and are still overlooked by some within the dance world. Yet their cultural and artistic impact has been unique and has had reverberations all over the world.

Hence this programme, in which the pioneers of post-modern dance have been invited by Baryshnikov to recreate some of their most successful and representative works. Not all the pieces are breathtakingly fresh or still abrasively provocative, however. But the overall quality of the evening leaves few doubts about the well-thoughtout selection of the programme. Lucinda Childs's Carnation, Trisha Brown's Homemade, Steve Paxton's Flat, Yvonne Rainer's Talking Solo and David Gordon's Overture to The Matter provide the viewer with a stimulating and exhaustive view of the key aspects and features of choreographic postmodernism, showing also how many of today's acclaimed creations owe to those formulae. …

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