Moving Archives and Choreographic Afterlives: Legacy Practice in American Postmodern Dance

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Through an engagement with the work of American postmodern choreographers Anna Halprin, Yvonne Rainer, and Laura Dean, I expose choreographic legacy as an ongoing process of continually rewriting dance history. Halprin, Rainer, and Dean’s models for choreographic transmission draw from the legacy methods of repertoire, reconstruction, and reperformance, while simultaneously proposing a new methodology that intentionally foregrounds the experience of loss and actively exposes historical layering. Anna Halprin’s use of dance scoring in the development and evolution of "Parades and Changes" (1965) presents a model for repurposing existing creative material in the creation of new performance works, a process of choreographic spolia that exposes Halprin’s aesthetic, philosophical, and cultural intentions in each instance of the dance’s reiteration. Similarly working to continuously recontextualize her work, Yvonne Rainer has variously employed and deployed her 1966 work "Trio A" as a choreographic fraction or insertable in her composite works and lecture-demonstrations, creating reflexive juxtapositions that elucidate her career intentions of challenging spectatorship. Rather than carrying her dance works into the future, Laura Dean draws from Tibetan Buddhist philosophy to advance a notion of dance as something to eventually be let go, actively foreclosing the possibility of restaging her work following her choice to authorially disengage from the process of choreographic transmission. Through the creative use of new notational practices, experimental processes for structuring performance, and strategies for archive formation, Halprin, Rainer, and Dean expose how the particularities of the present always inflect and inform the ongoingness of dance practice, thus ever reshaping our experience and embodiment of dance history. In addition to archival research, performance analysis, and interviews with the three subjects of this study, in this project I engage my own body as an investigative tool, myself participating in the dance work of Halprin and Rainer. I locate my own positionality within the history of these choreographers’ work, recognizing the ways my subjectivity contributes to the articulation and mobilization of choreographic legacy.

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  • 11/24/2019
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