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Sally Banes (1950–2020)

Sally Banes. Photo: Wesleyan University Press.

SALLY BANES was an intellectual pixie, an omnivore, fecund writer, and avant-garde and popular dance detective. Early on, in the 1960s, I became aware of her passion for dance when she came to interview me as I lay flat on my back convalescing from near-fatal surgical interventions. The book that eventually followed was Terpsichore in Sneakers: Post-modern Dance (1980), a compendium of my generation’s challenges to our choreographic forebears. In 1978, she produced a 16-mm film of me performing something called Trio A, which, because I had not danced for some years while making films, would become an iconic but unfortunately flawed template for future reference.

We remained good friends, although I must admit that I did not keep up with her prolific writing and interests, including her forays into Harlem to write about hip-hop before it was even named. I have a vivid memory of meeting up with her, maybe in Paris, and accompanying her to an obscure museum to view a weird collection of preserved body organs and parts—she was interested in everything having to do with the body and movement.

She had an adventurous spirit and an infectious laugh. By the time I returned to dance, she had succumbed to a stroke that affected her both in mind and body. I missed her then and miss her now. She made invaluable contributions to dance and cultural history.

Yvonne Rainer is an artist based in New York.

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