PRINT February 1973

Lucinda Childs: A Portfolio

NOTHING IS NECESSARILY EXTRANEOUS TO DANCE, including the professionally trained dancer’s susceptibility to the influence of the movement of nonprofessionals. The Judson Dance Theatre, a group which I joined in 1962 with a background in formal dance, concerned itself with this idea. While some of the choreographers adhered to chance methodology and task-oriented rule games to extend the range of movement outside the traditional guidelines,1 I was among others who developed some different methods.

I used materials as objects combining dance phrases with movement activity in relation to objects. To eliminate this idiomatic contradiction, I chose to have the movement governed by the materials and subject to the limitations of their physical qualities. I experimented with movement events in relation to objects. I then altered and extended these events in time and space, connecting them in a specific sequence until a kind of logic emerged which indicated a necessary design for the dance. Later I felt the need to impose a structure on the dances other than the intuitive logic derived from movement exploration with objects. I created dialogues for this purpose which had ongoing reference to specific subject matter. The dialogues did not in and of themselves dictate action, but accompanied action as the activity in the dance drifted in and out of a context that was relevant to the content of the dialogue. And I determined the extent to which relevance between action and dialogue was sustained intermittently throughout the individual dances.

Although the dances were composed in a unified idiom of action, I was more interested in a cumulative trend of activity that did not follow along one isolated scheme. I therefore chose to create sections within dances which focused attention on activity from different points of view. The notion of using the imposed outer structure of dialogue led me to create each section as a distinct version of action relevant in its own way to the dialogue. In one instance, I performed a section of a dance on a city street within an area visible from the sixth floor window of a loft populated by a group of spectators whom I temporarily abandoned. The dialogue, a detailed description of the facade of the buildings on the street where the dance was taking place, was taped and left with the audience so that they could remain tuned in to what was happening.

In my most recent dance (Untitled, Trio, begun in 1968) I discarded dialogue and action governed by materials as the sounding board from which the earlier dances had been derived. I was interested in finding a structural logic or illusion of dialogue central to the actual movement of dancers completing specific sets of selected activity in predetermined configurations and patterns in space. The structure was the play in time of dancers coming together at increasingly proliferated points in space, and commentary in the semblance of each dancer redefining the movements of the other in an unbroken continuum of their individual paths through space.

I have created 14 works. I was initially inspired by the choreography of Merce Cunningham, and influenced by John Cage’s musical theories. However, the choreography of Robert Morris, Steve Paxton, and Yvonne Rainer made a lasting impression on me during the entire time that the Judson Dance Theatre was in existence.

Street Dance, 1964
(at Robert Rauschenberg’s studio, fall, dialogue on tape)

To see this dance the observer must stand by the window at the South end of the loft and look across the street toward the South side of Broadway onto the sidewalk extending between 11th and 12th Streets.

I am concerned with the area between the Bon Vivant Delicacie Store and Surplus Materials of Norbert and Hausknect. I am not concerned with either of these buildings specifically but I am concerned with the area between.

Old Europe Antiques Incorporated—a black sign with white letters is framed in gold—the window below the sign displays various objects, presumably European: clocks, chandeliers, candelabras, various antiques labeled with white tags—B 103—Fa VR another 64 another 20. The remaining tags remain overturned or blank or no information is on them. On the door a small sign informs that the building is license bonded by New York State protected by a Mr. Louis Lewis. L-O-U-I-S L-E-W-I-S. There is a reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of any person committing burglary or larceny against this concern and to call ALgonquin 4-5952.

Next to the antique store is a stairway concealed by a grating. The stairway is closed on Saturdays by a padlock which attaches to the center of the grating; to the right of the grating is 816 Broadway, a Flea Market. A white sign is numbered 8 1 6 in black. The numbers 8 1 6 are written vertically and surrounded by a fine black ellipse. Four miniature cameras are displayed in the window, one for $15.00, another$10.00. On the left wall in the window two carved wooden owls face each other. The owls are from Spain. A white sign with red lettering beneath the window square explains that the nonautomatic sprinkler is in the basement.

814 Broadway is a Gurbob building—the numbers are in white against the maroon color of the building. A steel ladder extending from underneath the fire escape to the right intersects with the letters. Next to that Caltype Wholesale Office Machines—a white sign with black lettering. The Y of Caltype extends downward to the line of the black squarish ellipse that surrounds the sign, the round ball at the bottom tip of the Y is cut in half by the bottom line of the ellipse. The sign is repeated below in the window, however in this instance the C of Caltype is surrounded by orange. There are three rows of cardboard boxes to the right in the window. A red arrow extends upward on each one and the word “up” is written to the left of each red arrow in red. To the left of this, typewriters, adding machines, calculators, photocopy, mimeograph, and dictation machines are advertised in gold writing in a vertical column. A square pillar extends in front of the second of three doorways of 814 Broadway. The building is sprinkled at 814 Broadway, with the exception of the cellar and subcellar which is sprinkled at 812 Broadway, also a Gurbob building.

This is a snow street—no parking 8 am–6 pm Monday through Friday. There is a broken arch on the roof of the Caltype building and an identical broken arch at the right, but it does not extend as much into the lower fringe embordment of the building.

Model, August, 1964, dialogue

This is a typical Modern Dance position.
It is based on this idea . . .
You can use it.
There are ways to use it.
You can abandon it
Of course there are other positions.

This is a typical Modern Dance position.
It is uncomfortable to be in as well as difficult to get out of and ugly.
The right foot is bent diagonally back toward the right and the left leg is bent diagonally back toward the left.
It is an expressive position.
Expressive for someone who has nothing to do.
Of course Yogis can get down on the floor like this
Put one foot like this and the other . . .

Screen, February, 1965, dialogue.
while laying down the dots.

The technique demonstrated here is derived from an offshoot of a branch of French Impressionism in which the luminosity is produced by laying on the color in points or small dots of unmixed color which are blended by the eye in the silhouetted form of the landscape or other subject matter to capture intentionally a particular aspect of a part of a time of the day or part of the time of the day or simply the time of the day.

before entering from behind

I think that I am in a position where I can truthfully say that everything I have put down is behind me with the exception of this mirror which I am holding in my left hand. The human biology is essentially equipped to enter things in front of itself and is relatively incapable of entering things from behind without the use of rear vision which is the reason for which I am using this mirror as I enter this body of material—and the reason why I am entering in this backward manner is I suppose that I wanted to get a new angle on this material in as much as a reporter would return to the scene of a crime to reinvestigate the facts—or perhaps speak to someone he hadn’t spoken to before to get a new angle on the situation. However the only angle that I have found here is not new—it is created by a line extending from that point at which my eye hits the mirror to a point on the floor which I see in the mirror. This is a diagonal line. I’m sorry that I don’t have a string to demonstrate it more clearly, all I can safely say about this angle is that it is probably more than 45° and inevitably less than 90°. Also in the painting from which these colors are derived most of the figures are spectators and considerably fewer figures are performing various acrobatic stunts involving precarious balance. One of the players is in this position . . . Here it is again . . . and once more. . . .

Geranium, 1965

The materials for Geranium consisted of a winter coat, sunglasses, a wooden pole 66'' long, a piece of tinfoil, a platform 48'' x 80'' raked, a flat, a hammock, a 38" metal chain, a padlock and key, a plate of clear glass, a hand brush, a one-pound bag of soil, and a hammer.

The dialogue, a tape of a broadcast of the NFL championship game between the Cleveland Browns and the Baltimore Colts, was edited by me to include specific movement of the players described by the narrator of the game. I also included in the tape a list of the names of the players, and occasional interludes of rock-and-roll music between sections of the dance.

The dance had four sections. In the first section I used the pole to indicate the rise in volume of the excitement of the spectators responding to the success of the individual players in the game. I raised the pole vertically at the pitch of loud sound. Then I pointed the pole down so that the tip made contact with a piece of tinfoil which I dashed around the rim of the raked platform in a frantic manner, finally forcing the piece of foil up the side of the flat in a jagged path to the extent of my reach with the pole. In the second section, I attached myself with chain and Padlock to the end of a hammock, the other end being secured to the flat. I moved in a semicircular arc, my weight supported by the hammock, to execute in slow motion the action of a runner racing in to catch the ball, fumbling and being overturned. I accented his fall with the bang of a hammer on the ground. The third section was a dialogue given by me dressed in a winter coat about the fact that there was no third section. It was in fact a gap and I went into theoretical reasons for dealing with the gap. As I did, I also mentioned some ideas for the section and why they were not realized, as well as some bits of information about the nature of a football helmet which were pure speculation. The final section of the dance was performed on the raked platform. I stepped into a pile of dirt which I had emptied onto one end of the platform, brushing the excess diagonally forward, leaving a path of footprints until all the dirt had been used up.

Vehicle, 1966

Nine Evenings: Theatre and Engineering, commissioned by Experiments in Art and Technology by Billy Kluver in collaboration with Bell Laboratories.

Vehicle was a dance involving three performers and a group of objects one of which was air supported. The materials and performers came in contact with light and sound sources intermittently throughout the dance so that the qualities of the materials in motion as well as the motion of the performers could be exposed in different situations.

A sonar beam was designed to convert motion into sound. The beam projected approximately 20' into space at a fixed height, above my waist and below my shoulders. I suspended objects at that height from a scaffold. First a Plexiglas cube, and later three buckets suspended in a triangular plane so that the sonar beam could pick up the motion of the objects as they intersected the beam at different angles and at different speeds, as well as the motion of my upper torso and arms while I moved the objects. The sound was amplified by 20 speakers.

In addition, a ground-effects machine was designed as a platform sensitive to the shift of weight of a performer balancing on it. It moved according to the way in which weight was shifted. The platform was supported by a cushion of air escaping from a perforated vinyl surface underneath the platform, generated by two vacuum cleaner motors mounted on top of the platform. The ground-effects machine had the capacity to move anywhere in the space, but since the performer did not have complete control of this process, a Plexiglas cage was built on the platform so that one performer could guide the movements of another enclosed inside.

The set consisted of three screens located on a horizontal facing the audience. The center screen reflected movement activity in front of the sonar with lights in the foreground casting the shadows of movement activity onto the screen. On the screen to the left the oscillograph image of the sound waves from the sonar was projected by T.V. On the screen to the right, the reflected image of a single object in motion suspended from the ceiling with a light inside of it. I eliminated light sources other than those used to illuminate objects and to project the oscillograph image.

During the first ten minutes of the dance, a Plexiglas cube was suspended from the scaffolding in front of the sonar equipment at the center screen. The cube was rotated by the air from a fan. Three lights were turned on in front of the cube, one at a time until the reflection on the screen of the rotating cube was tripled. Later I moved the cube and the fan to the right screen, the cube in this instance suspended with a light inside of it casting a different image on the screen, but the cube continued to be rotated by the air from a fan. At this point three buckets were brought to the scaffolding in front of the center screen by the performers operating the ground-effects machine. I began to move the buckets in front of the sonar while the other performers cruised randomly in the space. In the tenth minute the oscillograph image of sounds picked up on the sonar was projected onto the screen to the left, while lights in front of and inside the buckets, as well as lights inside the Plexiglas cube and ground-effects machine were switched on and off intermittently by unheard notes as they occurred live over W.Q.X.R. In the twentieth minute, 45 color slides of the buckets were flashed onto the center screen in rapid succession. The first slides were of shadows of the buckets cast onto the screen which had already been seen during the performance, later the image of part of a bucket appeared in the slides, and finally the image of all the buckets. This effect was achieved by photographing the images of shadows, then moving back in space approximately 6'' at a time for each shot until all of the objects were contained in the frame.