PRINT December 1972


THE SYSTEMATIC DOCUMENTATION OF dance is a hazardous business at best; the strongest effects come through sudden cross-illuminations. Theory, criticism and scholarship are sharing whatever degree of renascence we have in creation and performance today. The critic’s hand is no longer as heavy, or if so, in a few unfortunate cases, is no longer such a burden on the artist or aficionado. This is a generation of dancers that has learned it can survive and bring a significant portion of its world with it.

I often conceive the real power of observation, not as a readily formulated body of opinion, but rather as the power to make any event enrich whatever you or I may do next.

Variation: some things change, some things remain the same. A fairly classic definition, but when one becomes aware of the infinite dimensions of any situation, the things which can alter or remain the same . . . Given the expressive organization of the human body, the emphasis can be shifted from the supposed problem of coherence into the pleasure of a constant awareness of the possibilities of new invention. (This is unique to dance, in contrast perhaps to painting and music??)

Make a 5 minute dance in the next 30 minutes . . . Make a 30 minute dance in the next 5 minutes. (I have abandoned this one, but as a beginning assignment it got a lot of energy released, and the time-emergency involved always invoked fresh solutions with no opportunity for those suspiciously nagging second thoughts.)

I continue, in teaching choreography, to employ four terms from a scheme evolved by John Cage for the analysis of music: Structure (the division of time into parts), Method (the means of arranging the continuity of events in time, Materials (in dance, moving bodies, space, light, sound, etc., etc.), and Form (expressional content). This can readily be applied to any time-art, or real-life situation. It has helped bridge the gap between art and life (cf. well-known remarks by Rauschenberg, and also Apollinaire on Duchamp) and bring into awareness a rich range of new possibilities for theater. Cage has transcended this scheme in his own activities, but it is still for me a useful point of departure, and one from which one can readily move back into tradition or forward into invention (I sometimes attempt a quick-step between the two).

Marcel Duchamp, 1887–1968. Even the best of us have shamelessly vulgarized his influence. The issue is hardly closed—is anyone interested in a second (or third) chance?

The ’60s were an unforeseen explosion; the ’70s seem a problem of organization to sustain the vitality and richness.

Robert Dunn