Viewing single post of blog Bodies/Objects – PDX/NYC (Travel Bursary)

The Jerome Robbins Dance Archive is housed at the New York Public Library for the performing arts. Part of the Lincoln Center for Performing Arts including the NYC Ballet theatre and Opera house.

The dance archive is the largest archive in the world devoted to dance. Its span and range is overwhelming and after 5 minutes of being in there I realised I would be returning here many times during my visit (5 in total)

My focus on exploring the archive was mainly in the post-modern dance scene of NYC of the mid sixties; looking at Yvonne Rainer, Simone Forti and Trisha Brown along with others that moved around the Judson Memorial Church scene.

A secondary and very basic task for myself was also finding a sequence from Merce Cunningham (his archive was gifted to the JRDA after passing). Having read a description of a sequence where Merce interpreted/performed a version of Duchamps painting Nude descending staircase no. 2 I was excited and determined to find this sequence. My reason for hunting this down was from having finished an exhibition at Collective Gallery in Edinburgh, I used this painting to develop a site-responsive performance as part of my installation (more info) .

The archive is very strict on what can and cannot be archived, all film work is viewed only on campus, even if the work has been digitized. The second photograph is as much as you can see within the digital media section of the archive.

This presented a problem for me already about how can I document this trip and the experiences i have with the work I have researched in the archive. However, this is part of the problem performance has inherently, and maybe this can become part fo the research also. At first I was reluctant about the very tight limits around how one requests to view a specific work; waiting for the request to be filled, watching on a square CRT monitor, in a cold room (FYI no large jumpers in the archive!) is not the ideal situation to experience a piece of dance. However that was it! it a was a reminder of ‘this is not the work, this is a mediated form of it’ sometime a 3/4x removed mediation if the work has gone through two digital processes (>vhs>dvd) the distortion alone reminds you of this ( some did look great with the degrading of interlaced video). This problem brought into ways I may explore documenting performance and look at ideas of notation.

I then had 2 challenges; Find the Merce sequence, find ways of remembering and holding onto watched dances. The following posts will expand and discuss these challenges and problems.

The first visit, there was no prevail of the footage of Merce Cunningham. Although I had found out which performance the sequence came from; Walkaround Time,  Jasper Johns used many of Duchamps works in the set including Bride Stripped bare by her Bachelors, Even. These were printed on large inflatable plastic cubes to be performed around and behind.  The archive held multiple performances and rehearsals of the company, The first footage I requested was of two sequences in rehearsal and another performance in rehearsal.

Discrepancies are abundant in recalling some of these details.

In rehearsal at the Joyce Theatre the company performed around a styled ballet barre, one body traverses the width of the the stage toward the upside down trapeze like barre. Stepping behind themselves, a deep lunge begins the crossing, a series of exchanges in footing between three or four positions the female move between crossing and uncrossing her legs, lunging/stretching to lifting/pulling. As they reached the bar, a male has been making their way across. As they meet the male begins to lean onto the others side. The phrase continues with a descent and we end with the two bodies lying on their sides on atop the other.

This seemed to be very different to the work however funnily enough some of the shapes/positions were similar to structures made by Philip in our performance. Through looking through a lot of work by Merce, I continued to find very interesting images working groups of bodies into lumps, object-like forms. For work that I felt had a very strong aesthetic, I really like how images such as the colour one below drew stark contrasts using these honed/trained bodies.