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David Velasco on Annette Michelson’s “The Dancer and the Dance” and “Lives of Performers”

Page from Artforum 12, no. 5 (January 1974). Annette Michelson, “Yvonne Rainer, Part One: The Dancer and the Dance.” Shown: Production still by Babette Mangolte of Yvonne Rainer’s Lives of Performers, 1972.

BEFORE SHE BECAME the doyenne of film theory, Annette Michelson was also a champion of what some anachronistically called the New Dance. In her first feature article in Artforum, on André Breton, in the September 1966 issue devoted to Surrealism, there is this:

One of the beautiful and important works of art I have seen this year . . . was a choreography (The Mind is a Muscle by Yvonne Rainer) in which movement and the evocation or figuration of its absence tended to assume the nature and presence of objects. More urgently than any theoretical or speculative contexts, a work of this sort poses the question of Surrealism’s metaphor in a climate in which the notion of making replaces that of revealing or expressing.

That event, which would have included one of the earliest performances of Rainer’s Trio A, 1966, stuck with Michelson. Seemingly unassimilable to the rest of her essay,

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