Brown grew up in Aberdeen, Washington state, the daughter of Martell Brown, a salesman, and his wife, Dorothy nee Abel , a teacher. By Brown gravitated to New York, the capital of modern dance, where she began participating in experimental composition classes run by Robert Dunn. With Dunn she also encountered a radical group of younger dance-makers, including Steve Paxton , Lucinda Childs and Yvonne Rainer , who were jointly on a mission to strip the art form of its traditional dependency on glamour, virtuosity and storytelling. Brown became co-founder of two avant-garde groups, the Judson Church dance collective and Grand Union , and it was with them as well as with her own small company launched in that she began creating the spare, sophisticated and wittily subversive dances that were her trademark contribution to the emerging postmodern dance scene in New York. The early movement style that Brown developed was blunt and functional, and was adapted to the various tasks, settings and rules that she chose to govern each piece.
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Brown grew up in Aberdeen, Washington state, the daughter of Martell Brown, a salesman, and his wife, Dorothy nee Abel , a teacher. By Brown gravitated to New York, the capital of modern dance, where she began participating in experimental composition classes run by Robert Dunn. With Dunn she also encountered a radical group of younger dance-makers, including Steve Paxton , Lucinda Childs and Yvonne Rainer , who were jointly on a mission to strip the art form of its traditional dependency on glamour, virtuosity and storytelling.
Brown became co-founder of two avant-garde groups, the Judson Church dance collective and Grand Union , and it was with them as well as with her own small company launched in that she began creating the spare, sophisticated and wittily subversive dances that were her trademark contribution to the emerging postmodern dance scene in New York.
The early movement style that Brown developed was blunt and functional, and was adapted to the various tasks, settings and rules that she chose to govern each piece.
In her Accumulation Dances she adopted the practice of minimalist composers such as Steve Reich , building up long sequences of simple movements that progressed by strict mathematical formulae. In Walking on the Wall her dancers were equipped with ropes and harnesses that allowed them to traverse high vertical walls.
But that relaxed demeanour belied the rich, sensuous and idiosyncratic virtuosity that Brown and her company deployed, as they executed the luscious ripples, off kilter balances and daring swerves of direction and speed that characterised her new works. Long years of stripping dance down to its essentials had taught her to maximise the impact of every moment — the resonating stillness with which a luxuriant tangle of movement could be stalled, the heart-stopping surprise with which a dancer could leap, seemingly at random, into the arms of another passing by.
It was with Anderson and Rauschenberg in that she created the complex, beautiful Set and Reset, which first brought her the attention of an international audience when it toured large theatres in Europe. While she mostly choreographed her own dancers, other companies, including Rambert and Paris Opera, began to perform her work, as did other solo artists. Other choreographers have cited their debt to her rigour and intellectual curiosity, among them Mark Morris and Stephen Petronio , who began his own career as a dancer in her company.
Her use of structured improvisation to generate movement, and her staging of dance in outdoor spaces and galleries, have been especially formative. During the course of her year career Brown received numerous honours. She created more than dances and her work as a graphic artist — although less widely known — was exhibited in galleries around the world.
Her company has never stopped performing her work and has been consolidating a programme for its preservation — building up an archive as well as reviving several of her earlier dances. She is survived by her son, Adam, and four grandchildren, and by her brother, Gordon, and sister, Louisa.
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To browse Academia. Skip to main content. You're using an out-of-date version of Internet Explorer. Log In Sign Up. Terpsichore in sneakers, post-modern dance. Magnolia Lurytter. B36 eb ddc: Stanley Trachenberg Greenwood Press. Douglas Dunn, "Talking Dancing. Terpsichore in sneakers. Originally published: Boston: Houghton Mifflin, With new introd.
Bibliography: p. Includes index. Modern dance. B36 Without the kind cooperation of the choreographers this book would not have been possible. Some of the chapters were published in part or in other versions in various publications.
When I began the book, the term "post-modern" was rarely used to categorize the kind of dance I was writing about, though by the time the book was done, the term was much more common in dance, as well as in other arts.
However, since the book was published, in , "post-modern" has become a term that obsesses critics and historians of culture generally. I have chosen to let the original text stand, despite the fact that, especially in the introduction, I might now choose to state some matters differently.
My research on the Judson Dance Theater over the past eight years has given me new perspectives as well as new facts on that phenomenon, but those have since been published in my book Democracy's Body: Judson Dance Theater My thoughts about modern dance have become less polemical and more complex, but the treatment of historical modern dance as a series of avant gardes and its relations to various other dance culturesnot only post-modern, but also ballet, and folk and popular traditions, Western and non-Westemmust be the subject for some future study.
Further, I must retract my surprising statement that sneakers do not serve as symbols; the rest of the book certainly belies that claim. Now, the original introduction itself seems a product of the seventies, but that is partly why I have left it intact. In order to inform the reader about my current perspective on post-modern dance and on new developments on the New York scene in the s, I have added an introduction to this edition, in which I discuss the problems of defining post-modern dance in light of the term's use in the other arts and trace the development of the stages that, in retrospect, emerge more clearly in the history of post-modern dance.
Page xii At the end of the book, the general bibliography and chronology have been updated. I would also like to acknowledge Stanley Trachtenberg, Laurel Quinlan-Ryan, Anne Valois, and Allen Robertson for commissioning articles that led to the new introduction. Page xiii Introduction to the Wesleyan Paperback Edition When Yvonne Rainer started using the term "post-modern" in the early s to categorize the work she and her peers were doing at Judson Church and other places, she meant it in a primarily chronological sense.
Theirs was the generation that came after modern dance, which was itself originally an inclusive term applied to nearly any theatrical dance that departed from ballet or popular entertainment. By the late s, modern dance had refined its styles and its theories, and had emerged as a recognizable dance genre.
It used stylized movements and energy levels in legible structures theme and variations, ABA, and so on to convey feeling tones and social messages. The choreography was buttressed by expressive elements of theater such as music, props, special lighting and costumes. The aspirations of modern dance, anti-academic from the first, were simultaneously primitivist and modernist.
Gravity, dissonance, and a potent horizontality of the body were means to describe the stridency of modern life, as choreographers kept one eye on the future while casting the other to the ritual dances of non-Western culture. Rather, they were united by their radical approach to choreography, their urge to reconceive the medium of dance.
By the early s, a new style with its own aesthetic canons seems to have emerged. In , Michael Kirby published an issue of The Drama Review devoted to post-modern dance, using the term in print for one of the first times in regard to dance and proposing a definition of the new genre: In the theory of post-modern dance, the choreographer does not apply visual standards to the work.
The view is an interior one: movement is not pre-selected for its characteristics but results from certain decisions, goals, plans, schemes, rules, concepts, or problems. Whatever actual movement occurs during the performance is acceptable as long as the limiting and controlling principles are adhered to. At present, Kirby's definition seems far too limited. It refers to only one of several stagesanalytic post-modern dancein the development of post-modern dance, which I intend to trace here.
The term "post-modern" means something different in every art form, as well as in culture in general. In , the same year the post-modern dance issue of The Drama Review appeared, Charles Jencks used the term to refer to a new trend in architecture that had also begun to emerge in the early sixties. According to Jencks, post-modernism in architecture is a doubly-coded aesthetic that has popular appeal, on the one hand, and esoteric historical significance for the cognoscenti, on the other.
Much "new dance" of the eighties could also fit such a definition, but at this point it would be revisionist to call only eighties dance post-modern. It is, rather, as I discuss below, post-modernist. In the visual-art world and in theater, a number of critics have used the term to refer to artworks that are copies of or comments on other artworks, challenging values of originality, authenticity, and the masterpiece and provoking Derridean theories of simulacra.
This notion fits some post- modern dances, but not all. In dance, the confusion the term "post-modern" creates is further complicated by the fact that historical modern dance was never really modernist. Thus in many respects it is post-modern dance that functions as modernist art. That is, post- modern dance came after modern dance hence, post- and, like the post-modernism of the other arts, was anti-modern dance.
But since ''modern" in dance did not mean modernist, to be anti-modern dance was not at all to be anti-modernist. In fact, quite the opposite. The analytic post-modern dance of the seventies in particular displayed these modernist preoccupations, and it aligned itself with that consummately modernist visual art, minimalist sculpture. But if we were to call sixties and seventies post-modern dance post-modern and dub eighties new dance post- modernist, the confusion would probably not be worth the scrupulous accuracy.
Further, as I argue in the section on the eighties below, I believe the avant-garde dance of all three decades is united and can be embraced by a single term. And I continue to recommend the term "post-modern.
Although in dance "post-modern" began as a choreographer's term, it has since become a critic's term that most choreographers now find either constricting or inexact. By now, many writers on dance use the term so loosely it can mean anything or nothing. However, since the term has been used widely for almost a decade, it seems to me that, rather than avoid it, we should define it and use it discriminately.
The s: Breakaway Post-Modorn Dance The early post-modern choreographers saw as their task the purging and melioration of historical modern dance, which had made certain promises in respect to the use of the body and the social and artistic function of dance that had not been fulfilled.
The bodily configurations modern dance drew on had ossified into various stylized vocabularies; dances had become bloated with dramatic, literary, and emotional significance; dance companies were often structured as hierarchies; young choreographers were rarely accepted into an implicit, closed guild of masters.
Ballet, for obvious reasons, was not acceptable as an alternative to modern dance. So something new had to be created. Although Merce Cunningham had made radical departures from classical modern dance, his work remained within certain technical and contextual restraintsthat is, his vocabulary remained a specialized, technical one, and he presented his dances in theaters for the most part. Cunningham is a figure who stands on the border between modern and post-modern dance.
His vertical, vigorous movement style and his use of chance which segments not only such elements as stage space, timing, and body parts, but also meaning in the dance seem to create a bodily image of a modern intellect.
In a sense, Cunningham moved away from modern dance by synthesizing it with certain aspects of ballet. Those who came after him rejected synthesis altogether. Their program fit well with a cultural trend given expression in Susan Sontag's Against Interpretation, a book of essays written between and In the title essay, Sontag calls for a transparent artand criticismthat will not "mean," but will illuminate and open the way for experience.
Our task is not to find the maximum amount of content in a work of art, much less to squeeze more content out of the work than is already there. The function of criticism should be to show how it is what it is, even that it is what it is, rather than to show what it means.
The nature, history, and function of dance as well as its structures were the subjects of the post-modern inquiry. A spirit of permissiveness and playful rebellion prevailed, foreshadowing the political and cultural upheavals of the late sixties. The younger generation of choreographers showed in their dances that they departed not only from classical modern dance with its myths, heroes, and psychological metaphors, but also from the elegance of ballet and even from post-modern dance's closest influences.
The breakaway period lasted roughly from to Within that time, the first eight years saw an initial bursting of forms and definitions, and several major themes of post-modern dance were set forth: references to history; new uses of time, space, and the body; problems of defining dance. The first of these themes was, in a sense, a way of looking back, of acknowledging the heritage these choreographers had set out to repudiate.
Through references to other dance traditions, often couched in ironic termssuch as Rainer's screaming fit in a pile of white tulle in Three Seascapes , or David Gordon's instructions for how to make a successful modern dance in Random Breakfast these pieces set themselves in dialogue with their own history.
The second and third set of themes looked at the present and the future, asking through practice what new dance could be. In works like Simone Forti's Huddle , in which the performers take turns crawling over the huddled group for about ten minutes, or in Elaine Summers's For Carola , which consisted of lying down very slowly, or in Paxton's Flat , which included getting dressed and undressed in unhurried real time and striking frozen poses, or in Rainer's Trio A , a catalogue of uninflected movements, time was flattened and detheatricalized, stripped of the dynamics of phrasing typical of modern dance and ballet: preparation, climax, recovery.
The use of space was explored both in terms of its articulation in the dance i. Not only was her use of space a break from the practice of modern dance, but the particular places she used shifted the locus of her activity from the dance world to the art world and raised the choreographer's status to that of a serious artist. Trisha Brown danced on a chicken-coop roof and in a parking lot. Her Equipment Pieces set people walking down buildings and trees and on walls.
The members of the Judson Dance Theater performed in the church's gym and in its sanctuary, as well as in a roller-skating rink in Washington, D. Paxton gave his Afternoon on a farm in New Jersey, and he and Deborah Hay performed on the grounds of a country club in Monticello, New York, in By the late sixties, entire outdoor dance festivals were being organized by producers; the impetus toward performing outside moved from the choreographer's aesthetic choice to the producer's marketing tactics.
And also by the late sixties, galleries and museums had become the most common venue for post-modern dance performance. This was possible partly because visual artists moved away from making objects in the sixties, presenting performances or videotape installations, rather than things to be stationed on the walls or on the floor.
In this context, dance events fit both aesthetically and practically into the programming of museums and art festivals both in the United States and in Europe. Issues of the body and its powerful social meanings were approached head-on. The body itself became the subject of the dance, rather than serving as an instrument for expressive metaphors. An unabashed examination of the body and its functions and powers threaded through the early post-modern dances.
One form it took was relaxation, a loosening of the control that has characterized Western dance technique. Choreographers deliberately used untrained performers in their search for the "natural" body. Another form was the release of pure energy, in dances such as Carolee Schneemann's Lateral Splay , in which dancers hurtle through space until they meet an object or another person, and Brown, Forti, and Dick Levine's "violent contact" improvisations