The Judson Dance Theater artists are of foundational importance to the Performing Arts Program of the Walker Art Center--chronologically and philosophically. Given their unstoppable drive to create something new, their irreverent joy in upending the rules, and their profound and influential redefinition of the art form of dance, they are seminal artists of their time and of our time as well.
Helping to launch the Walker's 2001-2002 season, the White Oak Dance Project's PASTForward offers the Walker and its audiences the opportunity to revisit this essential period of contemporary art history and our own history at the Walker. It is difficult to imagine how different contemporary dance worldwide would be had it not been for the courageous upheavals wrought by the Judson iconoclasts. Most of the important dance artists supported by the Walker today--Bill T. Jones, Mark Morris, Elizabeth Streb, Ralph Lemon, Liz Lerman, Emio Greco, Tere O'Connor, Joanna Haigood, John Jasperse, and dozens of others-built their innovations in part on the groundwork laid by the Judson artists.
photo: Stephanie Berger
While the Judson Dance Theater (1962-1967) never actually performed at the Walker (despite active correspondence and interest), the primary artists of the collective and the innovations they helped spawn have been actively supported by the Walker for more than 30 years. In fact, the Walker's first director of performing arts, Suzanne Weil, invited Grand Union, a collective that grew directly out of Judson and included many of the same members, for an extensive residency to help open the new Walker building in 1971. This and later Grand Union residencies both empowered the artists and radically impacted the Twin Cities dance and performance communities.
PASTForward allows us to further our work with artists like Trisha Brown, whose company will return to Minneapolis in February with her latest opus, The Trilogy (copresented with Northrop Auditorium), and Steve Paxton, whom we commissioned to create a new work with Minneapolis dance-maker Chris Aiken & Friends in 1999. It also allows us to build upon our relationship with support of the White Oak Dance Project and its founder, Mikhail Baryshnikov-like the Judson artists before him, he boldly upends expectations and redirects his lifelong training to serve the furthest borders of dance innovation.
This improbable project was born of passion and intellectual curiosity. These are forces we attempt to keep central in all we do at the Walker. It is gratifying that the work of the Judson artists has been so intertwined over the years with the performing arts program at the Walker. We are proud to celebrate this chapter of essential American dance history.
More information on PASTForward residency events (including video clips of the performance).
WALKER ART CENTER/JUDSON DANCE THEATER CHRONOLOGY
The Judson Dance Theater
The postmodern era of modern dance is commonly marked by the formation of the Judson Dance Theater in what was originally the Judson Memorial Church in New York City. In this small community space, visual artists, musicians, writers, filmmakers, theater directors, and choreographers came together as a group of individuals committed to "democratizing" theatrical dance. On July 6, 1962, the theater company gave its first performance, Concert of Dance #1, at the Judson Church. For the next 20 years, the Judson Dance Theater's influence would dominate postmodern dance.
Although the group's many members had diverse goals, they nevertheless shared some common ideas. They rejected the dramatic narratives of traditional dance and instead emphasized physicality over style. Seeking to rid dance of all that was superfluous, they rejected mastery of technique, sometimes using untrained performers who would simply walk or run in complex patterns. Taking gestures from everyday life, they sought to remove the barriers of what could be considered dance and non-dance.
The Grand Union
A landmark dance/theater collective devoted to expanding the definitions of improvisation. Formed after the Judson Dance Theater disbanded.
Steve Paxton and Jill Johnston with the Judson Dance Theater begin correspondence with Walker Art Center Performing Arts Coordinator John Ludwig. Paxton visits in 1966.
The Judson Dance Theater in residence scheduled, but canceled due to illness of Johnston and Rainer.
The Judson Dance Theater breaks up (1962-1967).
John Ludwig leaves the Walker Art Center; Sue Weil becomes Coordinator of Performing Arts.
Merce Cunningham and dancers in residence.
The Walker Art Center building torn down in March 1969. Performances held at the Guthrie Theater and other venues in the Twin Cities.
The new Walker Art Center, designed by Edward Larrabee Barnes, opens on May 15.
The Grand Union in residence. First residency in the new Walker building.
Valda Setterfield, David Gordon, Sara Rudner, Douglas Dunn in residence.
Robert Whitman performs Music, presented as part of the exhibition Projected Images.
Trisha Brown in residence.
Yvonne Rainer in residence. Performance with John Erdman in multimedia theater work Kristina, and as part of Visiting Filmmakers series with Babette Mangolte's Film about a Woman Who (1974).
The Grand Union in residence.
David Gordon and Valda Setterfield perform seminal works Chair and One Act Play in conjunction with the exhibition Herman Miller.
Sue Weil leaves the Walker Art Center; Nigel Reddin becomes Performing Arts Director.
Trisha Brown in residence.
Lucinda Childs and Robert Wilson perform I Was Sitting on My Patio This Man Came up I Thought I Was Hallucinating.
Lucinda Childs premieres Collaboration with Philip Glass.
Trisha Brown lecture/demonstration at Coffman Union and premiere of Glacial Decoy.
Yvonne Rainer presents her work-in-progress Journeys from Berlin/1971 as part of the series' Filmmakers' Filming and Meanings of Modernism.
David Gordon in residence.
Steve Paxton and Jeff Slayton performance with Viola Farber canceled.
New Dance USA, the largest dance festival of its kind ever produced in the United States from October 3-11. Catalogue published as part of Meanings of Modernism series includes essays by Sally Banes ("Icon and Image in New Dance"), Jill Johnston ("Judson: The Sixties"), and Allen Robertson ("The Postmodern Movement"). Choreographers include Trisha Brown, Deborah Hay, David Gordon, and Lucinda Childs.
Nigel Reddin leaves the Walker to become NEA Dance Director; Robert Stearns becomes new Performing Arts Director.
Trisha Brown Dance Company in residence. Performance at University of Minnesota-Duluth cosponsored by Benedicta Arts Center, St. Cloud State University.
David Gordon in residence.
Pauline Oliveros and Deborah Hay perform The Well.
Trisha Brown Dance Company; various works.
Trisha Brown in residence. World premiere of Lateral Pass by Trisha Brown and Nancy Graves.
David Gordon with the Pick-Up Company premieres Walker-commissioned United States.
Robert Sterns leaves the Walker; John Killacky becomes Performing Arts Director.
Lucinda Childs Dance Company; various works.
Robert Whitman performs Black Dirt.
Trisha Brown 20th-anniversary retrospective, part of the Discover Series.
John Killacky leaves the Walker; Philip Bither becomes Performing Arts Curator.
Chris Aiken and Steve Paxton in residence; performance of Walker-commissioned work.
Trisha Brown Dance Company with Dave Douglas performs The Trilogy, part of the Discover Series, on February 9.
ALL PHOTOGRAPHY OF WHITE OAK DANCE PROJECT'S PASTFORWARD BY STEPHANIE BERGER.
THIS RESIDENCE IS MADE POSSIBLE BY GENEROUS SUPPORT FROM THE PEW CHARITABLE TRUSTS. PASTFORWARD IS MADE POSSIBLE BY GENEROUS SUPPORT FROM THE WALKER ART CENTER'S DORIS DUKE FUND FOR JAZZ AND DANCE, THE MCKNIGHT FOUNDATION, AND THE PEW CHARITABLE TRUSTS. MAJOR PROMOTIONAL SUPPORT WAS PROVIDED BY MINNESOTA PUBLIC RADIO.