How Did Lucinda Childs Get from There to Here?

September 16, 2012

Tonight at Danspace Project, Lucinda Childs will speak about her early work at Judson Dance Theater. This does not happen every day. Especially since the piece on the agenda is Pastime, which has probably not been seen since it was first performed at Judson 50 years ago.

But it musta been something, because Dance Magazine put it on its April, 1964 cover to represent the new renegade dancers at Judson Memorial Church in Greenwich Village at the time. However, the editors at Dance Magazine had more than a touch of reluctance at covering Judson at all. The blurb for the cover reads: “Converging and splitting like paramecia, the complex of the ‘avant-garde’ groups now madly active in New York refuse to stay still long enough to be counted. The participants—we can’t call them dancers—they also include painters, musicians, and poets with no dance training—are all in pursuit of ideals which include the elimination of conventional forms. Our initial investigation [written by George Jackson] is in this issue…The cover photo of Lucinda Childs, one of the better trained dancers (irrelevant!) working with these groups, is by talented Peter Moore.”


Perhaps the editors chose this photo of Pastime for the cover because it harks back to Martha Graham’s Lamentation—something known and accepted as part of modern dance. But, whereas Graham started with the idea of grief and used stretchy cloth to enhance her idea, Childs started with the idea of cloth (and other objects) and fit her dancing into that idea.

Back then Childs also made dances that played with perception (during one of her studies for Robert Dunn’s workshop, she asked the class to go to the window and watch her dance on the street below). Or absurdity (in Carnation, she plopped a colander onto her head and stuffed sponges into it).

So how did she get from those kinds of dances to the momentum/pattern/minimalism that drives her work today?

If you’re curious, come to Platform 2012: Judson Now, at Danspace, tonight. For more info, click here.



Katherine Crockett in Graham’s
Lamentation. Photo by David Andrews, Courtesy MGDC.