Valda Setterfield (born 17 September 1934, in Margate, Kent, England, United Kingdom) is a dancer and actress noted for her work as a soloist with the Merce Cunningham Dance Company and her performances with and in the work of her husband, postmodern choreographer and director David Gordon. She has been described as Gordon's "muse". Their son, playwright and actor Ain Gordon, has worked with Setterfield on a number of projects as well.
Life and career
In England, Setterfield trained in ballet with Marie Rambert and Audrey De Vos, and mime with Tamara Karsavina, and had performed in English pantomime. She had also performed in an Italian revue. In 1958, on the promise of a scholarship to study with José Limón, she came to the United States, following her good friend David Vaughan and joined the company of James Waring, from 1958 to 1962, and then that of Merce Cunningham from 1964 to 1974.
Setterfield appeared with the improvisational dance company The Grand Union and in the works of Katherine Litz, Yvonne Rainer, Robert Wilson, Richard Foreman and JoAnne Akalaitis. She performed with David Gordon at The Living Theater and Judson Dance Theater. She is also a founding member of Pick Up Performance Co(s). In 1984 she received a New York Dance and Performance Award (Bessie). She was featured artist on the WNET/PBS Dance documentary America’s Beyond The Mainstream and in 1987 costarred with Mikhail Baryshnikov in Gordon’s Made in USA for WNET/PBS Great Performances. In 1988 she returned to Rambert as guest artist in Gordon’s Mates.
Setterfield played Marcel Duchamp in the Bessie- and Obie Award-winning The Mysteries & What’s So Funny? (1990) and toured Europe and Japan with the White Oak Dance Project in 1992. She has acted in the work of her son, playwright Ain Gordon, at Soho Rep, and Dance Theater Workshop and played herself in his Art, Life & Show Biz at PS 122 and elsewhere. She has appeared in films by Yvonne Rainer, Brian de Palma and performed the choreography of Graciela Daniele in Woody Allen's Mighty Aphrodite and Everyone Says I Love You.
In 2003, she danced at the 25th anniversary celebration of British Dance Umbrella, and in 2004/5 she performed in Dancing Henry Five at the Pantages Theater in Minneapolis, Danspace in New York City, the ODC Theatre in San Francisco, and other venues. She played The Old Woman in Eugène Ionesco's The Chairs at London’s Barbican Theater, On the Boards (Seattle), and at the Brooklyn Academy of Music's Next Wave Festival. In 2006 she received a second Bessie for outstanding achievement. She has also played the role of Bertolt Brecht in Gordon’s Uncivil Wars: moving w/Brecht & Eisler.
- Friedman, Lisa. "David Gordon: A Cult Choreographer Takes Center Stage". Dial (August 1986)
- Smith, Amanda. "David Gordon: Keeping the Options Open" Dancemagazine (February 1981)
- Croce, Arlene. "Profiles: Making Work" The New Yorker (November 29, 1982)
- Robertson, Allen. "Valda Setterfield - The early years" Dance Theatre Journal (Autumn 1985). Vaughan and Setterfield have remained good friends, and he appeared via photograph as the Pope in David Gordon's An Audience with the Pope, as well as in Ain Gordon's Art, Life & Show Biz in which Setterfield starred, again by image only. Vaughan has had a long career as a dancer, choreographer, actor, singer and, notably, the long-time archivist for the Merce Cunningham Dance Company He is also a prolific dance writer and a scholar on the work of Frederick Ashton.
- Gussow, Mel. "Review/Theater; A Flamboyant Tribute to Duchamp's World" New York Times (December 18, 1992)
- "Art, Life & Show-Biz: A Non-Fiction Play" on Theatermania.com
- Isherwood, Charles (2004-12-03). "A Couple Plays a Couple". New York Times. Retrieved 2010-07-14.
- LeFevre, Camille. "'Uncivil Wars': Bush era prompted David Gordon to revisit land of roundheads, pointheads, war and deficits" MinnPost (March 11, 2009)
- Valda Setterfield at the Internet Movie Database
- Valda Setterfield at the Internet Off-Broadway Database