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Dance and Conversation

Choreographer Yvonne Rainer talks about her visit to Glasgow

Yvonne Rainer, production still. Courtesy Tramway glasgow. Photo Jack Mitchell

Yvonne Rainer, production still. Courtesy Tramway glasgow. Photo Jack Mitchell

There will be two evenings of perfor-mance at Tramway. ‘Trio A Pressured’, ‘Where’s the Passion?’ and ‘Chair-Pillow’ are on the first. Two of my more recent works ‘RoS Indexical’ and ‘Spiraling Down’ will be performed on the second. Each evening is preceded by a film screening featuring ‘After Many a Summer Dies the Swan: Hybrid’, 2002, and Charles Atlas’ ‘Rainer Variations’, 2002.
 

‘Trio A’ was initially created for three dancers (David Gordon, Steve Paxton, and myself) as a sequence of continuous movement titled ‘The Mind is a Muscle, Part 1’, and first presented at Judson Church in New York, 1966. The dancers each perform the same movements but not necessarily in synch. Throughout my dance career I have presented ‘Trio A’ in varying arrangements, and at Tramway three previous incarnations will be presented collectively: ‘Trio A Pressured: Retrograde’, 1970, performed by Pat Catterson; ‘Forward’, 1966, by Pat and Emily Coates; and ‘Facing’, 1999, by Emily and myself.
 

The complete title of the first night’s performance lecture ‘Where is the Passion?’ is actually ‘Where’s the Passion? Where’s the Politics? or How I Became Interested in Impersonating, Approximating, and End Running Around My Selves and Others’, and Where Do I Look When You’re Looking At Me?’. This title was inspired by a student’s response to seeing the video of ‘Trio A’. He asked, ‘Where’s the passion?’ The question brought up a whole Pandora’s box of issues around expression, self-expression, minimalism, etc. I classify the lecture as ‘performance’, not only because I actually demonstrate some of the things I talk about, but because the very act of lecturing before a group of spectators can be thought of as performative.
 

In terms of the more recent work, ‘RoS Indexical’, is a re-visioning of  ‘The Rite of Spring’, and draws on the controversial Stravinsky / Nijinsky ballet that scandalised Paris audiences in 1913 with its ‘primitive’ movement and dissonant score. It is choreographed for a quartet of female dancers with whom I have worked since making my first dance for Baryshnikov’s White Oak Dance Project, ‘After Many a Summer Dies the Swan’, and is set to the BBC’s Riot at the Rite which includes Millicent Hodson’s re-enactment of the raucous, chaotic opening night of the modernist landmark. ‘Spiraling Down’, meanwhile, draws inspiration from a variety of sources—newspaper photos, soccer moves, old movies, classic modern dance, ballet, Steve Martin, 19th century actress Sarah Bernhardt, and my own disinterred dances from the 1960s.
 

Some of my interests have remained constant throughout my practice, such as groups of people moving in a cluster, unison pedestrian moves, the use of photos as source material, ‘radical juxtaposition’ of dance and non-dance material, and an aversion to meeting the gaze of the spectators and to performers exiting and re-entering the performance space. If you’re not performing, you hang around in view of the audience and watch what others are doing.
 

Watching my older works like ‘We Shall Run’ and ‘Chair-Pillow’ is very satisfying for me now. ‘Chair-Pillow’ is an excerpt from ‘Continuous Project-Altered Daily’, which was premiered (with a title borrowed from an installation by Robert Morris) in 1969 at the University of Illinois. It was performed as a 90-minute continuum, with the sequencing of its sections spontaneously determined by the performers. On the other hand, I am glad that some of my early work has disappeared.

Yvonne Rainer: Dance and Film is curated by Jason Bowman in association with Tramway, Glasgow, 5–10 October