Judson Dance Theater

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Judson Dance Theater was a collective of dancers, composers, and visual artists who performed at the Judson Memorial Church in Greenwich Village, Manhattan New York City between 1962 and 1964. It grew out of a composition class taught by Robert Dunn, a musician who had studied with John Cage. The artists involved were avant garde experimentalists who rejected the confines of Modern dance practice and theory, inventing as they did the precepts of Postmodern dance. Yvonne Rainer's 'No Manifesto' - (to which she rejects any confines to technique, thrill, spectacle, glamour, or assumed space) came out of this movement as a way to state what the Judson Dance Theater wanted; a way to convey the beauty of ordinary movement and the pureness of dance/performance art. It was a place for collaboration between artists in various fields such as, dancers, writers, filmmakers, composers, etc. Their goal in this collaboration was to observe dance in its purist form. This resulted in the elimination of many theatrical elements like plots and storylines, elaborate costumes and scenery, and even formal dance technique. The group constantly redefined itself by these collaborative efforts.

The first Judson concert took place on July 6, 1962, with works created by Steve Paxton, Fred Herko, David Gordon, Alex and Deborah Hay, Yvonne Rainer, Elaine Summers, William Davis, and Ruth Emerson. Two American artists notorious for their contributions to the Judson Dance Theater were American painter Robert Rauschenberg and conceptual artist Robert Morris. Composer John Herbert McDowell also contributed. The group met weekly to perform and received critique. There was an atmosphere of diversity and freedom amongst the group. Judson Dance Theater members were able to participate in performance and multimedia art instillations, or “happenings”, that took place around the city. Everyday movements became inspiration for material in many of the pieces created. Some of the Judson Dance Theater artists used untrained performers and dancers to convey a freshness and natural approach to movement. This naturalistic approach can be seen in 'Pelican', a trio for a woman in pointe shoes and two men in roller skates choreographed and danced in by Rauschenberg himself. Out of the Judson Dance Theater came many notable works, including Rainer’s 'Trio A' and Steve Paxton’s 'Satisfyin’ Lover'. Deborah Hay also took advantage of these untrained dancers by infusing elements of folk dance and meditation into her choreography. This application humanized her movements, making them more comprehensible and easier to pick up. Her contribution to the normalization of these untrained performers caused a new narrative that brought pleasure and fulfillment to the forefront of the dancers’ experiences.

A key revivalist of the Judson Church era’s resistance to spectacle was Mark Morris, American choreographer who invited form and structure back into the realm of modern dance.

Judson Dance Theater produced nearly two hundred dances.[1]


Developments in dance practice that can be traced back to the Judson Dance Theater include:


Some of the notable seminal dance artists, musicians and visual artists who were part of the Judson Dance Theater include:

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Judson Dance Theater". 100 Dance Treasures. Dance Heritage Coalition. Retrieved 27 September 2015. 

Further reading

External links[edit]