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Letters from Yvonne Rainer, Meredith Monk, Kenneth King R.E.: CROCE In her New Yorker column of June 30 dance critic Arlene Croce claimed that Robert Wilson "as a writer and director of esoteric visionary plays and as a teacher of movement has been the biggest influence, after Cunningham, on choreographers working today." Croce disregarded the early work of Yvonne Rainer, Kenneth King, Meredith Monk, Lucinda Childs.and the Judson Dance Theatre. The absence of accurate histories of contemporary American dance, performance art and theatre - and critics who have a historical grasp of the overlapping performance and art worlds - has contributedto the confusion in the performance world. Critics and audiences alike have trouble deciding who's influencing who these days. Some of those artists angry enough to respond to Croce in print have forwarded their letters to LIVE for publication. The Editors Dear Arlene: May I add my two-cents plain to the brouhaha accruing from your article of June 30? Insofar as Kenneth King has done so admirable a job (and one with which I largely concur) on the Monk-King-Dean -Wilson-Glass connections, let me confine my remarks to my own peers. For this purpose I am enclosing a crudely drawn-and vastly oversimplified-genealogy chart which adds several wrinkles to your revisionist sense of history. Mainly, I have enlarged your oddly reduced number of fountainheads, thus opening up the patterns of lineage. I have also given the poor bastard-our esteemed mutual friend, David Gordon-a proper parentage worthy of his name and have ejected Trisha Brown from the ranks of the "Mercerians." I so much prefer this term to your "Mercists." After all, while we're at it why not call forth the whole imperial baggage-what Kenneth King calls the "bankrupt monarch model" -and use a term lying closer to "caesarian" and Caesar? Even my name gets absorbed into this model in your hands. You say "The whole post-modern movement from Yvonne Rainer onwards " as though at a given point in time my work formed an apex from which everyone else developed. I fervently wish you Sunday historians might acquire a sense of history based on something 18 other than a sequence of one-man/woman epiphanies. Things are always more complicated than that. True, Cunningham/Cage were doing their thing 30 years ago. But why was their influence in the dance world not felt in any visible degree until 1960? Clearly it required a convergence of a number of people from different areas of art-making to manifest the ideas that in the intervening 10 years had lain fallow. And to further muddy the waters: the harvest that ultimately developed bears in many instances no relation to the original association. Hence, to call Steve Paxton's Contact Improvisation Mercerian is like calling Morris & Judd Smithsonians because David Smith's work preceded theirs. Much of the work that developed in the Judson Dance Workshop was in opposition to Cunningham's then perceived elegance and classicism. Things like walking, running, and quotidian activity performed in varying repetitive modes have never been of much interest to Cunningham, and the term "austerity" frequently used to connect the two generations is a cliche obfuscating of differences than revealing of similarities. This suggests that a good deal of the work of Paxton, Childs, Hay (whom you overlook altogether) and Rainer might be shunted off to another corner of the yard (I don't think I'm too far off in describing your enterprise in these "railroading" terms). As for Trisha Brown-- Brown hardly studied with Cunningham at all. Although she participated in the Robert Dunn workshop, her real roots come straight out of the Halprin/Forti axis, e.g., her dance constructions early on in her career and her highly personal-and untheatricalized- approach to movement exploration more recently. You're right in making a distinction between Childs and Dean. However, I prefer to articulate it as the difference between task and trance. Despite her recent predilection for dancing on the beat, her emphasis on floor patterns and the stiff, slightly awkward, almost parodistic relation to balletic steps thrusts the work more in the direction of children's games...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1537-9477
Print ISSN
1520-281X
Pages
pp. 18-22
Launched on MUSE
2018-01-03
Open Access
No
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