Sara has prepared a participant information sheet to be given to everyone on Monday. The idea is to introduce the ideas underpinning Trio A right at the start.
This is what the leaflet says:
TRIO A (1966)
from A MIND IS A MUSCLE
Dance and choreographic work
There is a lot of gesture in my stuff—also sounds and movements that accompany them. I imagine what comes across is incongruity, bizarre—maybe odd or eccentric—although I make no conscious attempts at humor. My image sometimes takes the form of a disorientated body in which one part doesn’t know what the other part is doing.
Rainer was one of the organizers of the Judson Dance Theater, a focal point for vanguard activity in the dance world throughout the 1960s, and she formed her own company for a brief time after the Judson performances ended. Rainer is noted for an approach to dance that treats the body more as the source of an infinite variety of movements than as the purveyor of emotion or drama.
Many of the elements she employed—such as repetition, patterning, tasks, and games—later became standard features of modern dance. In her early dances, Rainer focused on sounds and movements, and often juxtaposed the two in arbitrary combinations. Somewhat inspired by the chance tactics favored by Cunningham, Rainerʼs choreography was a combination of classical dance steps contrasted with everyday, pedestrian movement. She used a great deal of repetition, and employed narrative and verbal noises (including wails, grunts, mumbles and shrieks, etc.) within the body of her dances.
Ordinary Dance (1962) was a combination of movement and narrative, and featured the repetition of simple movements while Rainer recited a poetic autobiography. One characteristic of Rainerʼs early choreography was her fascination with using non-dancer performers. We Shall Run (1963) was such a piece, featuring twelve people clad in street clothes running around the stage for seven minutes creating various floor patterns. Some of the performers were dancers while others were not.
A turning point in Rainerʼs choreography came in 1964, when, in an effort to strip movements of their expressive qualities, she turned to game structures to create works. All movement aimed to be direct, functional, and to avoid stylization. In so doing, she aimed to remove the drama from the dance movement, and to question the role of entertainment in dance. Throughout this stage of her choreography she worked towards movement becoming something of an object, to be examined without any psychological, social or formal motives. She opted for neutrality in her dances, presenting the objective presence of the human body and its movements, and refused to project a persona or create a narrative within her dances. In 1965, as a reaction to many of the previously stated feelings, Rainer created her “No Manifesto,” which was a strategy formulated to demystify dance:
NO to spectacle._No to virtuosity._No to transformations and magic and make-believe._No to the glamour and transcendency of the star image._No to the heroic._No to the antiheroic._ No to trash imagery._No to involvement of performer or spectator,_No to style._No to camp._No to seduction of spectator by the wiles of the performer._No to eccentricity._No to moving or being moved.
This exploration in reducing dance to the essentials climaxed with one of Rainerʼs most famous pieces, Trio A (1966), initially part of a larger work entitled The Mind Is a Muscle. Something of a paradigmatic statement that questioned the aesthetic goals of postmodern dance, Trio A was a short dance that consisted of one long phrase. In Trio A, Rainer intended to remove objects from the dance while simultaneously retaining a workmanlike approach of task-based performance.
Not simple but certainly not fancy, it was a demanding piece of work, both to watch and to perform. She explored such dynamics as repetition, the distribution of energy, and phrasing. The movement consisted of task-oriented actions, emphasizing neutral performance and featuring no interaction with the audience. The dancer was to never make eye contact with her observers, and in the case that the movement required the dancer to face the audience, the eyes were to be averted from the audience or the head was to be involved in movement. As the Museum of Modern Art describes it: “It freed the dancer’s body from the rigid fragmentation and artificiality of choreographed movement.”The first time the piece was performed it was entitled The Mind is a Muscle, Part 1, and was performed by a set of three simultaneous solos by Rainer, Steve Paxton, and David Gordon. Trio A has been widely adapted and interpreted by other choreographers. Rainer has choreographed more than 40 concert works, including Terrain and This Is a Woman Who….
A few of her other works include:
Continuous Project-Altered Daily (1969) was installed at the Castelli Warehouse in Harlem. It produced “spontaneous behavior within a formal setting.”
War an antiwar dance performed by thirty people at Douglass College protesting Vietnam in 1970.
Street Action a performance to protest the Cambodian invasion in 1970. Visually, there were three columns of people wearing black armbands while walking with their heads down.