From MR's Archives: Steve Paxton and Bill T. Jones

in Conversation with Mary Overlie

Following an evening presenting solo work for a Movement Research Studies project, Steve Paxton and Bill T. Jones engage in a post-performance dialogue led and moderated by Mary Overlie. At this moment in time, December 4, 1983, both men have successful careers, engaging in differing ends of the spectrum referred to (somewhat ambivalently) as postmodern dance. More than three decades later this conversation continues to exist in the discursive psyche of downtown, experimental dance. It is our pleasure here at CC to transcribe, prepare, and publish this expansive conversation, a formidable trace of dance history. From the archives, against the grain of the VHS tape, we can decipher a heated debate, lively conversation, and inspired moment of gathering with and around these two men, their work and their still-unfolding, potent legacies. An evening of discussion charged with many, mixed emotions, this conversation continues to illuminate controversies alive in contemporary dance and its historiography around issues of embodiment, identity, subjectivity, artifice, economy, and sensory investigation. Read, reread, reflect.

- Biba Bell, co-editor


December 4, 1983

Mary Overlie: So, I’m going to try to lead some questions into hopefully some intelligent discussion of these two artist’s work. [To audience] Ahh! Much louder, okay. During the course of the evening if either of you want to direct the conversation please do so. Onto issues that are interesting to you or questions you have about each other’s work. So, let’s begin. The first few of these questions are questions I’d like both of you to answer. So, you can take turns answering them. The first one is, based on the works that you’ve shown tonight, would you talk a little bit about what concerns are being dealt with inside that work? Let’s take Steve’s answer first.

Steve Paxton: Analysis. The isolations and the vibrations are coming out of that first piece and those pedestrian’s concerns. After I cut away everything I knew about dance, which wasn’t a whole lot, but after I cut it all away and looked at what was left, and kept looking at it, I found finer and finer gradations of movement. I think knowing about something is the beginning of learning how to do it. After a while understanding it was going to get finer and finer, became the image that I was working with. I think that inspires continued looking in that direction. So that’s right now what I’m looking at—very fine gradations and changes inside of larger movements, and all the little points.

MO: When I watched your work… it’s very hard to talk intimately and then talk up. So, I’m going to pull my voice in again and you tell me. [laughter] When I watched what you did tonight it seemed that, the first impression I got was that whatever you were working with was coming all the way into your skeleton. And it kept coming back in and back in and then being put back out from…

SP: Could you decide… Why did it seem to be coming in instead of emanating from the source I had? I just wonder about the directionality.

MO: Well, no, well, and then it would come back out again.

SP: Did it seem to be coming in and out like that? [laughter] No, I’m curious! Was that the general perception?

Audience: Yes. No. [laughter]

SP: Yes? Some people saw it that way and some people didn’t see it that way. Okay, I just was curious.

MO: I’ll add another part of that conception then. That maybe instead of saying coming in, although I will stand on that, that the movement kept producing, or what your were doing kept producing very, very fine movement from the body. Which then…. you know I’m lost about what I was going to say about that. But that’s what I saw and was the interesting…

SP: What I thought of as you said that—say that I was [stands up] into something very small, it would depend upon where focus was and everything too as whether it was perceived as in or out I suppose, but if I was into something very small it might be that eyes used to seeing movements at least somewhat larger, you know, as small movements, that when it gets to be extremely tiny and vibratory at the same time the mind has to consider a smaller arena. And that might seem pulled in. I don’t know. But that is what struck me. What were larger movements—movements that were sprung from the vibrations into larger structures might have seemed coming out.

MO: I want to stow part of that point away for this discussion about theatricality later on in the evening. Would you like to answer that question?

Bill T. Jones: What was I dealing with?

MO: Yeah.

BTJ: Well, I was dealing with this small room in New York for one thing. I had coffee was a piece that I just sort of came up with a few days ago trying to make a videotape for a commercial TV show. And I thought, I was trying to… I guess I should back up and say that often times what I’m dealing with is poetry, trying to deal with poetics. It could be spoken or be in my body, I use a lot gestures which are exotic. I always feel, whenever I’m on stage, that it is a place for transformations. I feel it is almost a mystical place, therefor I am allowed to stretch and do all sorts of things which are ritualistic and because the context can be shocking. I can say things that I would not normally say. I try to open the gates to, if you believe in a subconscious, in what I say and in what I’m doing. The first dance was about a concern that I’ve been entertaining for a while now, which is classical music. And so far I’ve only been able to deal with the Romantics. What I was doing tonight was to talk and put shape to the things that I feel and see, and at the same time listen to Arthur Rubenstein play Chopin. So that I know when the glissando comes I want to hold no matter where I am.

My process in the past has been very indulgent in that I dive full force into what I’m feeling—the antagonism or whatever. I often time go into almost an ecstatic state, and I can’t remember what I did. I think that for me, growing finer is about being able to have that happen on one level and deal with another element, which is… for me now it’s music. In the second dance, when I discuss this in situations I say, Oh this dance is about an uneasy truce with tradition. I know that… I didn’t watch the dance but I was hard put to imagine I was hitting an arabesque. And I know that this scene, I don’t know what this scene is about. But I know that I find myself more and more these days playing large houses, and people who applaud for technical tricks. All those things are coming into me but I play them back only as things. I like to quote shapes from ballet. I like to quote shapes from ethnic dance. And it’s all held together by something that I’m feeling and the space that I’m in.

I’m very much about performance; I’m not so much about analysis. And as you were sitting over there watching me I was thinking, I was wondering, what is he thinking? This man who has influenced my thinking so much. I’m thinking, what is he thinking? Well to hell it… Arabesque! [laughter]

MO: Yes. Your work to me seems, it seems many, many different things. But one thing that it seems is eclectic, in that sense. The word eclectic would be…

BTJ: Diffused. Unfocused. Right

MO: No. That’s not what I mean by eclectic.

BTJ: No, I’m just being naughty.

MO: That’s one of my notes to talk to you about. Naughty and nice, naughty and nice. Okay, I’d like to go on to the next question.

BTJ: But that’s an interesting point, eclecticism. Because another pat explanation that I come up with, and I still hold to it, is that I was very influenced by the work of a person like Louise Nevelson. Rauschenberg somewhat. But, they are in to construction and assemblage. How do you say? Collage. Whatever you say. And that’s what I think about myself. Now when a performer does that it looks… I know that when we were in Bucharest they would say, Now what is the style? You Americans look like you are constantly experimenting—what’s the problem? Can’t you find a style? [laughter] This is what they were saying. So yes, I think that is my modernist legacy. That is the thing I have inherited, this eclecticism.

SP: Does it translate really to performing arts though? Or, isn’t there a funny dimensional change when you take it from pictorial to performing arts?

BTJ: I don’t know. I don’t know, Steve. If I do this [turns] and then I do this [flips the bird]. Most people’s minds they were caught up in Oh, is he going to make the turn? And then suddenly a social grace was corrupted at some point. So, they do, and it does. It’s the same thing that I feel when I’m looking at a row of beautiful found objects and then I find a chunk off a cornice or something like that, looking at Nevelson’s work. That’s the way I think about it. But do you disagree that it doesn’t really translate?

Bill T. Jones, Video still
Bill T. Jones, Video still

SP: Well because you used the work quoting movement from different sources that is being brought to you by the audiences in a way. The topic seems brought up by audience reaction to certain kinds of movement. The audience might know…

BTJ: Well actually that was not quite accurate when I said that. It’s true now more than ever but ever since I’ve been making solos I’ve performed this way.

SP: I wonder about quoting because it's a little like the problem of pretending to be something when you’re acting or…the whole idea of pretense or quoting, it doesn’t seem to me to work the same way on the body of a living being that it does on the page or, you know, in a work of art.

BTJ: You don’t like my dancing. [laughter] No what I’m getting at…

SP: It presents a problem, which I’ve been wondering about for years and thought might be some kind of issue for you too, which is: How do you not actually experience what you are pretending to experience?

BTJ: Oh, I do.

SP: And how, if you’re quoting, how do you… When is it a quote and when are you actually doing it?

BTJ: Always, always you’re actually doing it. Always actually doing it. But you’re working on different levels. I am working on different levels. When I go into the studio and I dance certain things come out, and I look at it. When I’m performing onstage I feel all sorts of presences go through me. I can’t hit an arabesque without feeling an emotional state that it makes me feel. Ecstasy. Or when I do a roll I feel a certain thing, or a run I feel a certain thing. And I feel that my skill at this point is that I can go from them quite easily. And I realize when I try to teach other people what I’m doing the thing that is missing is the internalizing is not there. I have no problems with acting. I think that it is very valuable, acting. Because, like I said, it’s a space for transformations. And I believe very much in shamans, and this person is now taken up in something, he is now the animal of the forest. Right? And now he is the healer—he’s going to touch that woman and she is going to be healed. Now he’s the infant. All of these things. I believe in that. I believe that is what my gift is. You don’t like that, do you? [laughter] That’s something that I’ve been wanting to speak to you guys about! [laughter]

MO: I want to say something! In defense, somewhat, of modern or postmodern dance, in a way, it seems to me that there is always this delicate question about… that you two are involved in as well as every one who is working in this way now. And that delicate question is that you have an idea and you’re involved in working it out, physicalizing it, and performing it. And then the question becomes: Is it working? Are people seeing it? You sort of touched on it when you said that the pedestrian work a very good level of investigation for you but that it wasn’t working as a performance. I understand you say that... or that…

SP: No work does, performance, it didn’t actually occur though. Because I always brought it into a room. In other words, Lucinda’s [Childs] way of doing it actually included pedestrians in the composition, pedestrians who were unconscious of being in the composition, which is the requisite way to get the most ordinary, pedestrian kind of performance.

MO: So what you were saying is you didn’t reach your ideal.

SP: No, I tried and tried. And I liked the pieces I made but they didn’t achieve that particular… they didn’t get to the kernel of it, you know. I like shell that I made, however.

MO: I guess that’s what I’m saying. In the act of working in this context that we’re all trying for an ideal and it’s a question of whether we’re making it or not. And that has something to do with a personal acknowledgement of how far you’ve gotten along and actually realizing that ideal… or ordeal… ideal. And some of that’s audience feedback. You get your audiences and they…

BTJ: Well you know that’s a big question, like what is success? Or something like that. I feel that there is a need to perform for, finically, to perform for more people, for me. And there is also a need to challenge them. I have that personal need. My heroes, I find, were quite a challenge to me. I would like to be that. But also there’s a need to communicate with people. It’s the whole accessibility argument. So, if say that I want to set out to make a virtuosic dance that is somehow subverted by attitude, there’s a large portion of the population that’s going to appreciate it as purely a virtuosic dance. When they see the hitch-kicks at the end and the split leaps and so on, then they’re ready to applaud. This happened a lot in Europe, like in that way. But then there’s another side of the population who like to see Ah! See he’s really goofing on what he’s doing now! And we’re in the ‘in’ crowd. We’re understanding that what he is doing is really not very valuable, but the rest of these people don’t understand that! For myself, I tend to, sometimes I’m confused, but other times I feel very happy there is this sort of enigma about it. I think that I measure my success each time I perform—I know how I feel before, and I know what the faces of the audience look like, and I know how I feel afterwards—if it was true or not, what I do. That’s how I measure success. I think, the problem that I’ve often had with my predecessors, the postmoderns, has been a feeling that this is… that sometimes they don’t care that I’m there as an audience. Now that's… in this life we have to be that way. If Joe Blow does not like my work and he’s not going to give me a good review I have to learn to live with Joe Blow. Bill Jones sits there and he watches this person perform and this person is going through some permutations of a structure that I lose interest in in the first 10 minutes, maybe that’s my problem. But I personally, I think it’s his problem too. I think performance is a communal, sort of, a two-way thing going on. And I measure success in the way that I’m able to touch people.

MO: I’m reminded right now of an Italian student I had, I learn a lot from my students, and he said to me once, he said, “You know, one of the things the people in the United States do not do easily is discuss differences.” As if things need to be over here with complete approval, or if there’s some disapproval then it’s all disapproval. That we don’t easily just sort of say, Well, I don’t like you but let’s talk, or, I love you but let’s talk. It’s more, If you love me let’s not talk about it at all! Or If you don’t love me let’s not talk about it at all. We have a hard time coming to a….

BTJ: Some of us have a hard time…

MO: Approval or disapproval of something.

BTJ: Yeah. I think I’m mushy now. I find myself often on panels these days, trying to discuss, dispassionately, work. And I find, personally I feel very privileged to be there, and also I find myself always willing to give the edge to anybody. Because I’m an art groupie. I love to watch people work. I love to see an idea, and if it doesn’t work I like to at least feel I’m in touch with the idea.

MO: Yeah.

BTJ: I think that the, when I say… Steve was asking me earlier we use stage fright, and I was trying analyze something that which is very kind of ironic, that he and I are here performing today. In that I think there is a thing which is there are people who are Contact people, is this true? There are Contact people and there are “classic” post-Judson people, you know? That means they still believe a good deal in the unsavoriness of illusion. The unsavoriness of popularity. The unsavoriness…

SP: Why are you putting it on a group?

BTJ: No, I’m asking a question right now! I’ve come to you and ask you is this true? Does this exist?

SP: I don’t know. It’s just such a polarized question. Because you said, for instance, that a performer has to communicate or you measure success with the communication with the audience.

BTJ: I measure my person… We were asked about ourselves personally.

SP: Yeah, but you started with a postmodern framework and a question you had about postmodernism and the boredom that was generated by certain performances. But if you’re going to have a research branch of an art form, and most art forms do, you’re going to get some research that doesn’t connect, in the way that you were connecting quotes, which are, you know, grands jetés and arabesques, which are the basic dance vocabulary. You’re working on that kind of literary level where the quotes are instantly known and you’re playing with, it seemed to me, dance movement rather than were you playing with the poem that you read, in which…

BTJ: No. I wasn’t reading it. I was improvising it.

SP: Really.

BTJ: Yeah.

SP: Well, anyway, the repeated phrasing, the way it came up and the way the imagery interplayed as you changed phrases slightly and things like that as it went on. It seemed to me your dance work was rather like that and so one got used to a kind of vocabulary its sides, dimensions, and the kind of play that you were doing with it. But there are new things to be discovered, which, when presented, will be not a language, yet. And can thereafter be quoted, but first their quotes are going to be the same kind of indecipherable… Finally it gets disseminated, people start using it, and a kind of language awareness grows up around it. And then quotes are really possible. You can do a Contact quote now, whereas at one time it was not seen in that light. Or a postmodern quote, you can do that now but at one time that wasn’t possible. I think one gets bored partly because one doesn’t know what’s going on. One can’t follow a line through. And one is not being stimulated.

BTJ: Actually, I get bored sometimes with Minimal music now.

SP: Hmm.

BTJ: And I think I’ve read enough about it, I’ve heard some of the best. I can get bored with it, you know? I mean is that because I don’t know what’s going on? They might say they get bored with Bach to, that’s possible. I was talking earlier to Arnie and he said, look, I don’t think this should get polarized because you have probably a lot more in common than you do not in common. I think I was responding to something you were… I got defensive because something you were trying to say about a question you had, which was that very euphemistic and circumlocutious way of saying I don’t believe something that you’re doing. I feel…

SP: I don’t think, tell you straight up—I think in what you’re doing that needs growth, in the shamanistic aspect that you mentioned. Which is that I think you’re going through states so fast that you don’t actually hit something. I saw how you were doing, I saw that you were hitting a lot of them and some of them were quite strong. But that’s not the issue. The issue that I was trying to raise before was: Can you pretend anything as performers or actually are we actually living through it? Or, on some level. You said if you believe in a subconscious you were trying to make that available. Well that subconscious, it seems to me, relates to films and advertisements and your own imagination in such a fundamental way. It’s so gullible, you know, in terms of those images. So if you are an actor who pretends insanity for the run of a play what happens to you? What happens to it? And do you need help at the end of that? I was thinking of the Marat/Sade situation some years ago. Do you know about that? People who got in great difficulty for pretending constantly in that state.

BTJ: I think that’s very extreme. Don’t you think, Steve?

SP: No. I think it’s very ordinary.

[murmurs]

BTJ: So in other words, all of the anti-illusion… this is like now people never have emotional problems. [laughter]

SP: [laughter] That was a nice jump forward. I wish it were true! I don’t think we can have an un-illusionistic reality. I think there’s a lot of illusion in all of it. I tried to do pedestrian movement, and I looked at pedestrian movement, and I found it very magical. Almost everything you said about your work, with its grand jetés and beautifully articulated technical… especially the air, the flying stuff, you know, the shamanistic states that you pass through, I think it’s all just within the substrata as well.

BTJ: What do you mean, the “substrata”?

SP: The stuff I looked at, you know, standing still and walking. The substrata of dance is the way I was thinking of it at that time. I think it’s all there anyway! In a way I felt, at that time, there was only theatre magic. There was only vivid pacing and fantastic things to see. It seemed a time of a kind of fantasy, even if people weren’t doing… I mean, there were overt fantasies and then more realistic fantasies but they all seemed rather fantastic to me.

BTJ: Are you talking about then or…?

SP: I’m talking about the early 60s. I was interested in the substrata at that time. And I decided it… in the way that fourth position is seen as a step when you walk, so all that theatre magic is actually going on anyway and something to be dealt with. It is an illusion. What we think is going on affects what goes on.

BTJ: I think I know what you’re talking about.

SP: You know what I’m talking about. [laughter]

BTJ: [laughter]

[laughter]

Steve Paxton, Video still
Steve Paxton, Video still

MO: To come back to… That was an amazing talk because it touched on many of the things that I wanted to ask already about illusion.

SP: So are we finished?

MO: We could be!

BTJ: No we’re not finished because I’ve got to rap you now!

[laughter]

BTJ: Well, I mean I’ve never stood in a room full of people and been critiqued like that. But if I could dare turn it around now and say… I wonder if it’s not possible to work one’s way into a corner?

SP: You don’t like my dancing?

[laughter, applause]

BTJ: I like the… I like, you know… Actually I’m going to be honest with you, what I’ve seen of Steve Paxton…

[laughter]

BTJ: No, no! I’m at a disadvantage. I’m at a disadvantage because I didn’t come out today because I was sitting back there thinking, well if I come out a stand around it will be cold and I’m going to be too nervous and involved in his energy and I won’t be able to bring fresh energy. But the first thing that I ever saw you do was a Contact workout taped in Italy. Taped. And we were all sitting around, and it was interesting. Then I later, at Symphony Space, believe it or not, it was the other thing, not to mention the pictures I’ve seen. But, I saw you warming up on stage. Then I saw Laurie Booth dance, and I thought that in seeing Laurie Booth dance I was seeing you dance, which is probably unfair to him but I don’t know if that’s necessarily a bad thing. I understood even more. Then I saw the tape of the walking piece here today. The only problem I ever had was that I thought that it might be ungenerous. You’re situated in a place which is not generous. It’s a place… I don’t know… Your experimentation in a way could… I’d like to see more, more movement! Not necessarily do more but about dancing. More about the history. More about…

SP: One reason that I was trying to express what was happening in the 60s and why that existed was because there was only generous dancing!

BTJ: Well now we’re in the 80s!

SP: Now we’re in the 80s. It still exists!

BTJ: What still exists?

SP: I mean, Alvin Ailey is performing tonight, I think. Or if he isn’t he has been and I’m sure the ballet is on and I’m sure there are, you know, 75 concerts that deal exactly with that material. Is it ungenerous to decide that maybe there’s a glut of that material on the market? And that maybe something else would be…

BTJ: You’ve been, you set a lot of times at Universities these days, maybe?

SP: No.

BTJ: I taught at the Harvard summer dance program this year and I was amazed at the attitude people had. People think that this is 1963. There are people there who will come to New York and become totally disillusioned because they have no sense at all as to how the machinery works. We are not all Yvonne Rainer. I’m not interested in seeing you do Trio A again. I don’t want to make Cry again, or Frontier, or Letter to the World either. But I think that you have a tradition. I think often times people get blinders on and they think all of that, I shouldn’t know about it because it will somehow corrupt me. Now I’m going to take my technique, where it is now. I’m going to take my own little vision of what the big kids do, the big avant-garde kids do, and I'm going to start making avant-garde dance. And I think that it is sort of denying a whole bit of tradition. Now you are a superior mover. And you’ve also worked with one of the “masters” of this era. I see that in your thinking and all. But I feel that for you, and many people making this type of work, they’re babies. They really are babies. And they will never grow because they have prejudices, so many prejudices. For myself, one reason that my movement has gotten big, that I chose to do the solo that I did today—it’s not the only thing I do. Recently I did a solo in St. Louis that a woman claimed to be, the chairman of the department that brought me there, that it was all port de bras. What was this, this is not dancing. You know, I’ve been there. One reason that I do this because I am working in bigger spaces, and there are people who have got to see me way back.

SP: That’s why that whole tradition developed.

BTJ: Right. What is it about this special little laboratory that we have in lower Manhattan that we have these new ideas that have not yet taken form? And we want to be funded year after year. Now, who are we making them for? This is an old question too. How can you make the next step? I heard Peter [??? 31:51] say, this may be angry but he said, Let’s face it! Balanchine did everything that postmoderns do back in 1929. I thought, what an outrageous thing to say, Peter! But he’s not so far off! The only difference is the man has made his minimal statements. The man has made his statements about pedestrianism. I had a critic tell me that Fokine’s Sylphide was all running steps, was small pedestrian motions put together to music. They were so sophisticated they could work on many, many different levels. I think we work ourselves into a corner. Now I don’t know your work enough to even talk about it in that way. But a lot of people think that this is what, this is the vibe.

SP: What is the vibe?

BTJ: That this is what you should do. When I’m watching your work I should not feel that there is an ego on stage. I should not feel that I am seeing anything presentational or illusionistic. I should feel that you’re trying to manipulate… You mentioned Ailey because Ailey is one of the hottest companies around for getting audience response. If I get audience response, this guy is somehow not on the mark. Tonight, when I usually do this [demonstrates] I usually smile. But, I thought about performing at the Kitchen awhile back, Julie West said to me, You a bunch of my friends came, and they were in Trisha’s company, and they thought you were so cold. So tonight I played it cold. I did the hottest dancing I could. I did it cold. And I say, What will they say now? [laughter] I’m talking a lot but I hope that I’m saying something that is solid.

SP: You said a lot that is. The thing I’m interested in is: Is it possible to work yourself into a corner? And what you said about student work and what the expectations are when you’re not a member of a Soho dance class. And I don’t know that that’s anybody’s responsibility. You know? I mean if somebody wants to come to New York that’s their problem and watch out. [laugther] And if they don’t like what they see and they’re disillusioned, well, that happened to people when they looked at Cubism too. What can you do? I make the work that I make and I make the best work I can. And presume that whoever comes to see me work or see my work is used to that by now.

BTJ: Who’s going to pay for this work?

SP: I don’t know. My work? Who pays for my work?

BTJ: No. Let’s stay away from Steve. You seem to be independent. You live a certain lifestyle. But I mean, other people… When I hear complaints about, Here I am, I am—they use me—this is postmodern and he’s black. Right? And then there are people signing petitions to cut off the funding for postmoderns. And I sat on a panel this year and they’re talking about alternative spaces… I don’t know this is getting away. You should crack the whip…

MO: I’m following!

BTJ: People on the panel were of the opinion, Look at these people’s funding! 75% of their funding comes from the NEA! What about the box office? What about the community involvement? Dadadadada! And then the other people who were sitting there, places like the Spoleto and so on, they were cut back $300,000, are saying Well is this really fair? We bring in 50% of our own revenues and they get 75% from over here! And we subsidize these esoteric experiments? And so I am, even though… I am put on the aisle side of the postmoderns—I there to represent them. I have to somehow say This is what makes American Art the leading Art in the world! This is the laboratory! These people making experiments down in Soho are in ten years going to be informing Jerome Robbins and New York City Ballet and he’ll be making his first Minimalist ballet! Dadadada! And they look and they say, Oh yeah? How many of them are really doing it? How many of them are contributing to any fo the major companies? How many of them have their PR together or their image together to get outreach to larger audiences, to really make a vital change in the scene? And I don’t know! I don’t know how many of them there are. Our generation, my generation, has been accused of being careerist. I think that’s because we hit the ground running. We saw the ground rules right off. They 70s were over. They cut us back and we’ve got to get out there and compete with all the big kids. Just so we can feed ourselves and continue making our work. So then you start thinking about things like repertory. Repertory’s got to suit the ladies in Iowa and also the young intellectuals downtown in New York who write about you and help you get your reputation. We have a lot more weight, I think in a way, than you people who were allowed to, as they said in a condescending way about you, the Judson people. It was like a bunch of precocious children that were being encouraged to play. This is a quote from something I read in Edinburgh last year—they had the whole big thing about the Judson. The feeling you got from looking at Grand Union was they were a bunch of precocious children and you felt good…

SP: Grand Union is different than Judson. So that's…

BTJ: Oh boy, here we go!!

SP: They’re different decades.

BTJ: Well it’s similar. You know what I’m saying Steve?

SP: No.

BTJ: A lot of the… Well maybe I’m… Okay let’s talk about Judson then.

MO: Let me say something here. I se a lot of concerns about money coming in, which I’d sort of like to shelve because it’s not about…

BTJ: I know. I know what you’re saying.

MO: … work. What are you doing, what are you doing? Etc. But I would like to say in relationship, that art movements and inside that at different times, that inside that there are different artists with different relationships with money. There are artists who never ask for a grant. And there are artists who work and never show their work. There are artists who pay to show their work. There are people who live on grants. There are people who… you know. And I think that it’s not—for my sake, for the sake of listening to what you’re saying—fair to lump a large number of people together under a tag. Maybe you’re in the head of doing that from sitting, listening to grant…

BTJ: Well you do.

MO: I don’t apply to grants.

BTJ: Bravo. [laughter] So, I’m the one, I am the exception here.

SP: I think grants are dangerous precisely because it causes you to live beyond any real means that you have. It’s a dangerous thing the government did in giving grants and it would be very easy to wipe out quite a few artists these days just by stopping them.

MO: Yeah.

SP: They could no longer afford the materials they’ve gotten used to.

MO: To further, and finish that thought, is that performing in the last 75 years or so has been rolling into becoming a larger and larger field for more and more people to participate creatively in. It’s become a lot of people, a lot of Americans now compared to 70 years ago, are putting their creative effort into performance. And performance, in particular, has a very difficult financial situation as we all very well know. It is person based. It’s very hard for a performer to make a product and let it sit in the closet for 20 years until the public catches up to it and then he has an income. There’s a very tight and frightening leash on a performer, which, when you begin to discuss it becomes very loaded. How are you playing the game as a performer, as a choreographer, with that go-stop-eat-don’t-eat problem? I’d like to ask an innocent question. This is for my own consideration because I like to think about big, chunky things. Space and time are two traditional, choreographic tools. They’re part of dance, as you said before. And I’d like both you to talk about what are some of your theories, or ways you have worked through or are working now with those two things, just space and time.

BTJ: Space and time? Well the first piece, I didn’t think it dealt a great deal with space other than that I was making sculpture shapes as I was talking, space was very much in narrative. The second piece, which is something that I often deal with, dealt with the lines and directions, and a nugget of movement that is manipulated along those trajectories. I often times improvise with a spatial pattern in mind. And a good deal of my work is improvised in that way. The thing that holds it together is its relationship to space. One reason I’m working with music more and more is because it sets a sort of time structure, a sort of framework on my loose improvisations. I’m going to think about it a little more. You, Steve?

SP: Well, the spaces are getting smaller and the time is getting shorter.

BTJ: Could you elaborate please? [laughter]

SP: I could say less. [laughter] Well you didn’t see the thing I did. [Steve dances] And…

BTJ: Now, what’s happening there?

SP: What’s happening there…I’m working with very small movements, and some of them vibrating, using that vibration thing to spring into larger movements, you know, to take the momentum in the way that it’s going and take it larger than the vibration itself. So the vibration is small. But isolations, taking vibrations to different parts of my body.

BTJ: You used music…

SP: I used a harpsichord sonata, yeah.

BTJ: And was it a pulse in the music that you were relating to, or…

SP: It’s, the, uh, it’s all that filigree, yeah, vibration, that’s set up very much in the upper register. But I wanted to say something about post-modernism and performance that you got at before. That if I did what you do, that is use the face to convey attitudes, I couldn’t do the movement. Because the head has to be working in all kinds of different positions, I mean that is the movement. The head is part of the body. And you’re using the head still as a social instrument a lot, not all the time. But it keeps coming back to that. And that’s a theatrical tradition for dance that I’ve never…

BTJ: And I felt my face was very closed today.

SP: Closed, but your head was in the social mode. It expresses closed-ness, or coolness, or whatever you’re doing. And I remember that about Cunningham. There was this thing of the mirror head. [laughter] And in ballet, too. And it relates a lot to that thing about the theatre, you know. That in the theatre, first of all, maybe you’re spotting light is way back there. But you’re also dealing with that thrust to the biggest space that you can, for all those economic reasons that we’re not going to talk about and all the reasons that renaissance theatre. There’s a lot of reasons for it, I suppose, but one of the things it does is make movement have to be big! The same way we have to raise our voices now when we perform in a big theatre. And this stuff is just weird to do in a big theatre.

[laughter]

BTJ: Have you seen the new Jerome Robbins piece?

SP: No.

BTJ: Well he has acquired a huge group of people along the backside doing things like that, and the freeze makes the statement. The movement is very small. Now, what you were showing before. I remember last year, sitting with a person. And I was doing these arms here. And he said, ‘Now I could take you to a place where people could do that better.’ And I said…

SP: That’s the most annoying kind of…

BTJ: You know, it’s annoying, but what you’re showing me, Steve, I have the same kind of feeling right now. There are little kids who are breaking and doing strutting who are [imitates Steve’s movement] and vibration and that stuff. And I’m wondering, what is the experiment? Now, I feel your responsibility, if I can be so bold, and which I feel is my responsibility, is to take that and make a symphony. We know there are kids on the street who can articulate from here to there, improvising and will never be able to repeat it. And they’re masters of it.

SP: And never be able to structure it. And drop it after a couple of years, and forget it entirely.

BTJ: Now it won’t be dropped, because it’s been absorbed now into the mainstream. They’ll be doing it on Solid Gold, right? But I’m saying what can we do with it, with this knowledge. Can we make a symphony? Can we make a huge opus out of it? And that’s what I’m finding not happening with the ideas that, I don’t know, I guess Harvey Lichtenstein might disagree with that. He has a lot of faith in the experiments people have been making.

MO: I think… Could I say? Again, when you say what are we doing, I mean, I wanna separate that because different personalities address the world in different ways and we do not all have to build the palace, you know. I wanna build a house. Someone wants to live outside. And you want to see it all come together. I think that that question has a loaded, um…it has an opinion in it that we should all do, we should all be building, we should be bringing in more money, or we should…I think that my feeling about it is that we all make up our mind about what we are doing about that. I also have to say that just from a personal standpoint, breaking… it’s taken me two years to recover from the impact of breaking, etc. etc. But my feeling is now, having thought about it for a long, long, time, is that those kids, wonderful and talented as they are, are not doing the same thing as postmodern dance. And that, if you look at it with a refined eye, the concerns behind what they are doing are entirely different. And the use of the body is entirely different, and the presence is different. There’s a lot that’s different about what they’re doing. Not to take away from either form, but I think that… I mean, I’ve had so many people come up to me and say, ‘How are you going to relate to it?’ [laughter] I didn’t know, and so I thought about it for a long time. And I think that basically, I don’t have to relate to it. Because I’m not related to it, and there was an assumption that I was. And, from my side, from looking at it very closely, I think that we’re not related. Postmodern dance is not related to it.

I’d like to take my question out again, with a bone in it. Which is that, I have a major disagreement with both of you. And I’ll preface that by saying, I feel that tonight if a person could impersonally listen to the tapes or go back over our discussion, one of my favorite things could come out about this, which is, and I think that all three of us like this a lot, there’s an analysis of dance, loaded and unloaded, agreed and disagreed upon, that’s wonderful. The mirror face—you know, that’s wonderful. A student of dance could go a long way on working with a mirrored face. You know, words like are very exciting to me. Anyway, my bone is that in terms of space use, um, to drag us all back to the long, immemorial tradition of seeing dance. Which is that it seen in space, and that it is staged in some way or other for an audience and that it is visually accepted. I wonder how, in relationship to that history, and the fact that we’re seeing in the round or three quarter round or proscenium, how it is that you both have taken the stance that you don’t deal with spatial, um, element that is part of choreography. How is it that you have removed it?

Mary Overlie, Video still
Mary Overlie, Video still

SP: Well let’s look at this production right here. The school, Renee asked me to come and do this situation, um, as I remember I didn’t bring the correspondence with me, but there was a rehearsal time yesterday. It wasn’t there when I called, however. There wasn’t any time to rehearse in the space. The space such as it is has a lot of possibilities. It’s one of the most expensive aspects of producing dance is space, you know. I’ve been trying for the last fourteen years to build a studio up in Vermont, and it’s always just beyond my grasp. However much I earn, it always costs quite a bit more than that, you know. I can now afford the studio I was trying to build back in ’72. It’s never gonna happen, I’m sure. Here, today, the time I have to think about the space was the hour and a half while the chairs were being set up and the TVs were being set up and people were talking to me and I was in here considering the space. And that is very often the situation. Come in here and do your thing in our space. Who can consider time and space under those conditions? It’s outrageous. It gets… the more, I’m sure, that you’re touring, you know, it gets more like that. Cunningham, I remember, here was Cunningham studio which at that time was probably about where that second column business and lentil is, something like this space, in which he built his dances. And one of the places that he had to accept, for financial reasons, was a space that was something like 14 feet deep. Am I going to close to the camera? [laughter] I’m sorry Cathy. Something like 14 feet deep, something like this. And twenty eight feet wide. It was a half circle. It came to about this wide, you know, and he had to put the dances he made for this space onto this space, and furthermore because John Cage was going to play 45 minutes worth of music, we had to dance the steps so that they came out to be 45 minutes long. I mean, that’s insane. The work that we did there, whatever it was, I mean maybe Merce felt that piece of indeterminacy, spatial indeterminacy, was part of the game, and I guess it is. If it’s a game that we are playing, that is one of the pitches that is pitched. But, uh, it’s hard to think about space. What is…Who is given time? And you really have to push to get that time.

BTJ: Well one thing that I think is something that I feel like I’ve inherited is an elastic relationship to a space. And that is that in the early dances that we were making in trying to emulate Judson Church or Grand Union, or whatever you talk…  probably Judson Church more. These were situations in which you would have this structure, now let’s take it down to the corner, and do it there. We have this structure, let’s go to the museum gallery and do it there. We came out and do it in the middle of a field. Now, when I have my own company, and these works are set — repertory set — I like to feel like I’m not afraid, even then. There are reasons why I demand more and more now. I try to say, look, if I’m going to come, I want this space. And the more power you get the more you can demand the spaces you want. And you might get a reputation for being a bastard but you get what you want by demanding it. I mean, you can’t make… If you have a beautiful, gigantic piece like Lucinda’s piece with Rauschenberg — not Lucinda, Trisha’s piece with Rauschenberg recently, I mean, why would she want to hurt that piece by doing it in a space that isn’t going to show it well. So if you respect her enough and you want her work there, well get her the right space or she doesn’t go. I don’t know if that’s her attitude, but that’s my attitude.

SP: I’m sure her attitude is partly that and also well, my company is going to suffer if it doesn’t perform this month. So, the space is quite right but…

BTJ: Well you stretch it a little bit, but I think it’s possible to get what you, there’s one thrust and it goes back to this whole element of your profile, and what you demand. If you’re going to rehearse…if you’re going to perform in a large space you should probably spend the money and pay for a large space.

SP: But really the ideal thing would be to know what the space is and build the role for it.

BTJ: Yeah.

SP: Because space is a magical element. I mean, it’s impossible to invest in it enough.

MO: I’m sorry to cut this short, but I have gotten so involved in what is going on up here that I forgot that it was almost 7pm and that we were going to open it up to some audience questions. So, would anyone who would like to direct a question to these two artists raise their hand. Danny?

Daniel Lepkoff: I don’t have a question but I just have a comment about the whole thing that’s been happening here in terms of the dynamic of polarizing Bill and Steve. I felt like that I saw a lot of similarities in my… maybe it was the space and that it was a solo, but it’s my experience watching Bill dance and watching Steve dance, that Bill and Steve both appreciate for themselves maybe, the environment and the mental support or mental imagery that they wish to have to move. And I see that, different environments, but also you see two people who are both very beautiful movers and very involved and have studied their own movement moving, and in the moment of movement, in certain moments, I’m reading your body, and I’m reading their bodies. And in this context where I feel it’s close enough to do that, I feel like I’m engaged in watching your physicality and I’m engaged in watching Steve’s physicality.

BTJ: It’s a wonderful thing to be close, isn’t it?

DL: Yeah, so on that basic level who cares about post-modern this and that? [applause] I’m an animal. I have animal perceptions about animal movement and that’s what I’m seeing. I get… When is a situation in which those perceptions in me are not able to be there for whatever reason, like this is a personal thing…well…When there’s a lot of hype in a situation, when I can’t see that this is a person dancing, when I feel a lot that there’s so much about what they want me to think they are, and it happens in all kinds of contexts, you know. But what if I’m sitting way in the back in a big space and I can’t really see what they’re trying to…

BTJ: But you know what, Danny, you were going to try and dance Proust, right? It is not maybe so important that you see the dance but you better damn be well sure that you see the choreography and that you see the narrative unfold. There are times that this physicality we all love is of the utmost importance. And this is a time when it should be. But if you’re going to dance some big thing… A lot of people who I love as dancers, I would like to see them involved in opera. I would like to see them as a part of a huge thing. You know what I’m saying? I’m not so precious about the animal perception, although it is a wonderful thing.

SP: Yeah. I thought Proust was a writer.

BTJ: He is.

SP: Not a choreographer.

BTJ: No, if you were going to dance his work, people do…[laughter] You’re wondering why, that’s a whole other story. It’s just one of the greatest works of the twentieth century. So why not.

SP: But it’s been done. I mean, it’s already been written. [laughter]

BTJ: Vibration has not, Steve? Give me a break! [laughter]

MO: Okay, is there another question?

Audience member: So, choreography is very important to your performance, right?

BTJ: I think it’s very important.

Audience: If you compared your choreography to the performance, which in a sense is more important to you?

BTJ: When I’m dancing solo, I think my performance. When I make an ensemble, it’s the choreography.

Audience: You’re making a solo for an audience or for…?

BTJ: Or for myself.

Audience: Right.

B: Right. I make them for both people and I don’t mean to hedge but, in other words, I want to sing today. I said to Cynthia earlier, I feel like dancing today. And I chose to do a set work because I want to dance well. I want to show my turns, I want to show my dancing. Because people like Danny see the beauty of the person on one leg turning, they’re going to see a person in the air. That’s what I wanted to do today. There have been times when I’ve gone out there and said to myself, “I want to go out tonight and give those sons of bitches a hard time.” So that performance was very important. But today I felt like it was a very special and privileged position to be in so I wanted to just dance today. So it changes, is what I’m saying.

MO: You had a question?

Audience: To me, what I’m trying to figure out too is two major distinctions. I want to know what it is about postmodernism that includes Bill. Because it’s my conception of it includes him and I don’t understand it. I don’t understand what it is. Because I feel the way that I dance and the feelings that I have about it are more similar to his and I’m trying to go back to it and figure out what my connection to it is, because I feel that there is a lot about it that I don’t understand.

MO: I will say that I don’t think I was trying to define modern or postmodern or make distinctions, personally. Because my feeling is that the term postmodern… about three years I started to want to call everything ballets again. Yes, because I feel that’s much more equitable. And that within the history of ballet, in the ’19-duh-duh-duhs,’ whatever, a movement began…a ballet movement began. Or something rather else. In the history of painting, a movement of Dadaism began, and that was a clutch of people, they put their name on it, and they wore the t-shirts. And the way that we’re describing postmodern and even modern, I would argue, includes everybody who started working at a certain year, and under a certain aesthetic. And it’s very unfair, I think. And very difficult to define that.

SP: Who did that? Who invented that term?

BTJ: Sally Banes.

SP: It’s just so weird.

MO: And Edwin [Denby] invented term modern dance.

SP: That’s from way right field. He is viewed on these panels as a postmodernist or somebody who can speak to that. But it all depends on your viewpoint.

Audience: Well my viewpoint is that I guess after seeing it, because I’ve never seen you perform before, and in your dancing, I guess my perception comes from what I’m seeing. I could hear you say some things…I didn’t see it. My perception of what that is, whatever that is… And I don’t know, I think there’s a reason to make a distinction.

BTJ: Well, that first piece I did…

Audience: It’s something to think about, which I think is something important. Because it makes you think about certain things. But I didn’t see any movement…

BTJ: My manager would thank you for that. She wants me to stop being—to using that word. Because she says it’s not accurate. It’s not true to try to say that I’m postmodern. And I’m not precious about it. Except that it oftentimes helps me explain some of the aberrations in my choreography. For instance, the first piece, if you did a stand-up monologue, normally, you would not repeat like that. And maybe the imagery wouldn’t jumble together like that. You would maybe see it on the printed page, but one of the things the postmoderns were doing was borrowing from other art forms such as literature and painting and so on. That might’ve been a post-modern device. The piece that I did here—the repetitions in it, perhaps, the eclecticism in it—maybe, you might say, it was postmodern. Sometimes it was virtuosic and sometimes it’s pretty pedestrian. In other words, those rules might make it post-modern. But I think you’re right. I don’t think it’s a useful term. And I think that almost everybody would agree.

Audience: I think it’s a useful term. It stands for something…

BTJ: Yeah…[laughter]

Audience: I mean, there’s a reason that word exists and refers to something and I think it’s valuable. But I don’t you need to get locked into that definition. It’s interesting to me, you know, it offers a challenge, and it’s something to understand and to relate to or get information from if you don’t relate to it, you know, and to learn from it.

BTJ: How many postmodern dancers in the house tonight? [laughter] There’s one.

MO: See in light of this discussion, this becomes an issue about not that you’re asking how many post-modern dancers there are in the audience but how many dancers out there who are called post-modern who want to be called postmodern.

BTJ: Could you answer that?

MO: Do you know what I mean? How many people who are considered postmodern in press, by their friends, or by an audience want to be called that name? In light of this discussion of saying I argued against it and now you’re saying, I’m not going to raise my hand because I don’t want the title even though I’m considered a postmodern dancer.

BTJ: Well do you consider yourself a postmodern dancer?

MO: What? No, I make ballets. [laughter]

S: I want to say one more thing about this, that if you’re looking at Bill’s movement, did you find whether he’s modern or postmodern, a lot of the movements that seem the least postmodern are actually quotes from modern or ballet movement and so really can’t be seen as his movement. [laughter]

MO: Therein lies the danger of words and captions.

Audience member: We’ve backed ourselves into a corner.

SP: Is this one of those?

BTJ: Could we have another question? She got us off.

MO:Could we have another question?

Audience member: I want to ask, first question: when you talk about pretending, what was a question earlier, do you do any pretending when you perform?

SP: Not… It’s so complex, it’s so complex. Because it’s there in the substrata as well, which has to do with the difference between what you feel and what you think might be appropriate and the imagery in the forebrain, what you think might be appropriate, being sort of a guiding sort of system for the body. So there are moments when I feel the rise of something in my being, which I know I’ve provoked. I don’t know if that’s pretending or whether the thought about the feeling or what. I have found the whole thing very dicey to deal with. Because it seems to me that one of the interesting things in modern and, well I suppose in all the arts, but it’s been investigated from a modernist point of view, and into the… Oh God, helpless! And, for about the last twenty years has been a really concerted interest in imagery and the way it effects movement and using imagery to affect movement means to change bodies, to affect posture, to affect choreography, the imagery, the idea you have in your head. Complicated and sophisticated systems of imagery have been created to arrive at these things, and with that research comes really a lot of questions. A lot of questions about the kind of fascism of the ordinary dance class, as opposed to the freedom that’s being proposed here. Or, on the other hand, as it was brought up earlier, the kind of namby-pamby-ness of this new image technique as opposed to the strict-line, more disciplined, and certainly effective work in regular techniques. So exactly what’s going on in my own mind, as I said I just have a question about it. But in terms of pretending, I remember a film that I once performed in. There were two Chinese women, sisters, who had to pretend in this film, which was a satirical film from the get-go, anyway. They had to pretend to be Siamese twins and the hero of the film who was a real…the character was quite a bastard. He was an abortionist on the run and willing to perform abortions quickly, but he didn’t have much time and, that kind of thing. His position relative, and it became a kind of running joke throughout the cast, his position was…his character’s position was putting down these Siamese twins. And there were lots of Siamese jokes going around. And we were digging for material and off-camera as well, we were digging for material. You know, Siamese jokes and Oriental jokes, and the thing got going as a syndrome and the thing got really distressing. I was alienated from the entire situation because of this one element. Because it got so pervasive that nobody could tell who was pretending, who was actually racist, were we making a racist movie under the guise of making a comedy. It just got very complicated for me, and I’ve never resolved it. I would like to see it resolved. I would like to find a resolution to it. But I just find pretense a kind of dicey issue.

BTJ: You know, Steve, I made a solo last year which is called Three Dances and the first section I come out and pretend to be doing a pas-de-deux. No! Pretend to be doing an adagio. As well as I can, to music like Mozart or Chopin. And then, I did a piece in silence which was all shape oriented. And then the lights change, hit, Peter Gordon comes on, screaming horn, people shouting, the music is blasting, and I swear I say every filthy word, “Fuck your mother in the ass! You goddamn white son of Adam!” Then at the end of it, I would smile, and present. Now, to do it well, and God knows certain critics wrote about it. That he seemed almost out of control, and his anger—what is he so angry about? And all this, blah blah blah blah. Although finished like this, with a smile and so on. But that moment was real. That moment was real, and to be honest I couldn’t have been that angry every night I did it. I was turning it on, and I have enough of that right underneath the surface to turn it on, so I don’t know. At that moment I don’t know if my experiment was how far can I push this negative emotion and far can I make it real. And then be able to pull it back. Now, that’s what I mean by acting and pretending.

SP: Mmhm.

BTJ: You know, you hit an attitude, and be there, and then move away.

Audience member: I have a question about that kind of thing. What is first for you? Is it the altered state of consciousness or the emotion that you’re trying, or the movement you’re trying? Which is first?

BTJ: Which is first? The altered…?

Audience: Which is first? Are you…

B: More and more it’s the movement. It’s the vehicle for which all this other, the things that you mentioned, will come through. See I really feel like it’s interesting to see Swan Lake, because I like to see the way she does the pas-de-deux where she tells the prince good-bye, or whatever, because they all do it differently. And these women really believe it. The good ones can be really right there. So for me, the movement is first. Let it be beautiful choreography. Now let me see a good interpretive artist do it. A good improviser’s gotta do it all at the same time…

MO: Cynthia, is it ok that we’re going over the seven o’clock time limit? Is anybody? What is the priority of the space here? Yeah, let’s take another question.

Audience member: I’ve seen both Bill and Steve perform, and I saw you do a piece with Lisa Nelson in the first benefit concert, which seemed to be the seeds for the same piece I saw last Spring, in Danspace, in the church.

SP: It was half of that piece.

Audience: And I’ve seen you do on art on the beach, which I know was first put together or performed in Iowa.

BTJ: Yeah.

Audience: And recently you did a piece for Alvin Ailey. You keep talking about your repertoire. When you finish a piece, is it finished in a sense, choreographically, like the choreography doesn’t change or the essence of the piece didn’t change. And I get the sense from you, that that piece evolved over five years. Now when is the piece finished and if it’s finished it’s in your little bag and you can walk around with it, and is the piece finished for you in that sense, or is it much different? Because I sense that you seem to fulfill it over time. Does your piece get reviewed and changed by you? Or are you saying they’re set.

BTJ: Do you wanna go first?

SP: Yeah, because it’s short. They don’t seem to finish in that sense. Sometimes… I made some pieces in New York that I call temporaries. They only got one performance and I’ll never do them again. So I guess those are the most finished now that they’re done. But everything else seems to change. And one of the changes is space, and new performance areas and considerations. The other thing is, if you’re working with improvisation, for something like Part, a piece we do three or four times a year, in that interim time, one changes. And so you come—I put on my dark glasses and white pants again and I’m a new person underneath, and I have to dance that out. So that’s…

Audience: Would you call that choreography? Or at least I’ve heard people say Steve’s bringing this piece that’s...

SP: Uh, uh-uh-uh-uh-uh…I don’t know what… It’s again a rather polarized view of what’s going on. I see it more as a kind of spectrum. The music stays the same because it’s on tape. The costumes stay the same so far as the laundry allows us. And, uh, I wear dark glasses and she wears a mustache. And it’s always Lisa and it’s always Steve. But the movement changes. Although, within a stylistic or similar range. But the actual movement changes. So, there’s a spectrum of possibilities. You can go for all out change every time, which is so drastic and difficult. You can go for all out the same every time, which is so drastic and almost impossibly perfect to, you know, perfection difficult to achieve. And then there’s all that stuff in the middle, and I play to those gradients, more.

BTJ: For myself, depending on the piece I feel frustrated about it’s out of my hands now. I can’t even go in and change something I don’t like or if I don’t like the way they’re doing it, they barely have time because it’s such a big operation, it’s so expensive. It’s there. And, I mean, I’m going to talk to him about it, but, I mean, I don’t know, it’s there, that’s the form it’s in, and if I don’t like it, they’re going to do it all over the world no matter what. With my own work, however, I know that Arnie and I have a piece, Arnie choreographed it, called Continuous Replay which we have been doing for five years. It’s built around an idea, but the personnel keeps changing, the length keeps changing, the music keeps changing. So it is possible to change, and the Brahms piece you saw tonight, the first section, except for the arms, is pretty improvised. Except I know that there are certain things I want to do in it. I like to keep a lot of improvisation in what I do, all the time. When I make for other people, though, I have to trust in them more, because I don’t trust them to improvise as much.

MO: I think that we’re going to cut this. I’d like to say, though, as a capper that I am very appreciative of both of you of taking out your true responses to each other’s work. In the last few Studies Projects… Sometimes when people gather together to talk they pull away from really piercing an issue because maybe it’s uncomfortable and you may not arrive at an easy, nice ending, etcetera, etcetera. I’m very appreciate of your honesty, and I, for one, got a tremendous amount from a lot of it. Thank you so for coming.

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Bill T. Jones, Contact Improvisation, Mary Overlie, Postmodern Dance, Steve Paxton

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