Luc Delahaye, Courtesy Gordon & Setterfield

Dance Magazine Award Honorees: David Gordon & Valda Setterfield

How to frame two lifetimes of work as broad and vibrant as that of choreographer David Gordon and performer Valda Setterfield? When onstage together, an invisible tether connects them, whether they're kibitzing, chiding, flirting or embracing a sense of melancholy.


Muse and spouse to Gordon, Setterfield is a versatile, spellbinding dancer and actor, often described as coolly regal in contrast to Gordon's earthy, shaggy-haired foil. Setterfield met Gordon while dancing with James Waring in the late 1950s. From the mid-'60s to the '70s she was a distinctive presence in the Merce Cunningham Dance Company, and later appeared in films like Woody Allen's Mighty Aphrodite.

In 2016, she portrayed King Lear in John Scott's production; Brian Seibert described in The New York Times: "Setterfield is a balm. More regal than ever at 81, she can speak Shakespearean verse with mellifluous intelligence…she can invest simple pantomime with gravitas."

Gordon, who has also written and directed plays, elides dance into theater and back in his unique oeuvre for his troupe, Pick Up Performance Co(s). Some motifs recur. Autobiographical topics pop up, reinforced with the collaboration of family, including their son Ain Gordon. He has examined quotidian movements, parlaying repeating chains of simple gestures into juicy phrases.

Chairs are a staple; after Setterfield was injured in a car accident, Gordon created Chair for her in 1974 using two folding chairs. Ten years later, he created Field, Chair and Mountain—with 20 chairs—for American Ballet Theatre.

Classic texts are frameworks, notably with Dancing Henry Five (2004), which conjures Shakespeare's Henry V with rugby shirts, fabric remnants and—you guessed it—chairs. Some of Pick Up's performers have gone on to create their own mix of movement and wordplay—among them, Jane Comfort, Dean Moss and Cynthia Oliver.

Work by David Gordon Performed by David Gordon and Valda Setterfield Recorded in performance on September 30, 1978

Pick Up has recycled costumes and set elements not only as a practical and economical habit, but to proudly weave cords of its history back into its present.

Gordon's latest project is ARCHIVEOGRAPHY, a richly dense online resource inventorying his vast creative output. He has assembled "archiveography scripts" in which he intertwines his life and work, akin to cracking open his brain and peering at the process, collaborators and ephemera involved.

Gordon has noted that the voice of the choreographer is often not heard in the annals of dance, but that "my history can be lively dialogue between multiple viewpoints of past and present." Gordon has assured that his and Setterfield's shared legacy will continue on as he intended—a bold flourish of a choreographer.

To purchase tickets to the Dance Magazine Awards or become a sponsor, visit dancemediafoundation.org.

Latest Posts


Courtesy Nichols

I Am a Black Dancer Who Was Dressed Up in Blackface to Perform in La Bayadère

On Instagram this week, Misty Copeland reposted a picture of two Russian ballerinas covered head to toe in black, exposing the Bolshoi's practice of using blackface in the classical ballet La Bayadère. The post has already received over 60,000 likes and 2,000 comments, starting a long overdue conversation.

Comments have been pouring in from every angle imaginable: from history lessons on black face, to people outside of the ballet world expressing disbelief that this happens in 2019, to castigations of Copeland for exposing these young girls to the line of fire for what is ultimately the Bolshoi's costuming choice, to the accusations that the girls—no matter their cultural competence—should have known better.

I am a black dancer, and in 2003, when I was 11 years old, I was dressed up in blackface to perform in the Mariinsky Ballet's production of La Bayadère.

GO DEEPER SHOW LESS

Here's the First Trailer for the "In the Heights" Movie

Lights up on Washington Heights—because the trailer for the movie adaptation of the hit Broadway musical In the Heights has arrived. It's our first look into Lin-Manuel Miranda's latest venture into film—because LMM isn't stopping at three Tony awards, a Grammy award, and an Emmy.

GO DEEPER SHOW LESS
Fabrice Calmels as Othello in Lar Lubovitch's Othello. Cheryl Mann, Courtesy Larisa Elizondo.

Fabrice Calmels Leaves the Joffrey Ballet After Nearly 19 Years

Joffrey Ballet dancer Fabrice Calmels announced Monday that he'll take his final bow with the company after a performance of Nutcracker on December 29.

Born in France, Calmels trained at the Paris Opéra Ballet School before moving to the United States to study at the Rock School, Boston Ballet School and School of American Ballet. In addition to the long list of roles he's danced at the Joffrey, Calmels has worked as a model, and in 2014 won the Guinness World Record as the world's tallest ballet dancer.

We caught up with Calmels to hear about why he's leaving after nearly 19 years, and what his future after the Joffrey will hold.

GO DEEPER SHOW LESS
contest
Enter Our Video Contest