June 26, 1940|
New York City, U.S.
Lucinda Childs (born June 26, 1940) is an American postmodern dancer/choreographer and actress. Her compositions are known for their minimalistic movements yet complex transitions. Childs is most famous for being able to turn the slightest movements into an intricate choreographic masterpiece. Her use of patterns, repetition, and dialect has caused her to have a unique style of choreography that is often imitated for its ability to experiment.
Personal life and early career
Lucinda Childs was born in New York City. She began dancing at the age of six, but her ambition was to become an actress. Continuing her dance training, she studied with legends such as Hanya Holm and Helen Tamiris. As a musical choreographer, Tamiris gave Childs her first acting job which proved to be a frightening experience for Childs. After this traumatic experience, Childs decided to focus on dance and pursued a Bachelor of Arts degree in dance. She was able to broaden her technical experience by studying with Judith Dunn, Bessie Schonberg and Merce Cunningham. Childs describes Cunningham saying that he “elucidated a kind of particularity and clarity in dance that felt distinctly separate from anything I had experienced up to that point”. While studying at the Cunningham studio, Childs was introduced to Yvonne Rainer who encouraged her to be a part of the Judson Dance Theater in 1963 with dancers such as James Waring, Valda Setterfield, and Arlene Rothlein. Here, Childs was allowed to explore and experiment with her own dance style and choreography. Childs states, “Judson made me interested in dance, but it also made me feel torn between different things – technique, working outside the dance vocabulary, using objects and texts.”
“As one of America's leading modern dance choreographers, she makes work which can often be described as conceptual dance.” While her minimalist movements were simple, the beauty in her choreography lay in her spatial exploration. Her work captivates the splendor of the different patterns the human body can create across a stage by basic repeated movements such as skipping or turning. She would create an entire performance piece based on one simple combination that would be repeated numerous time but in a different way. Whether she takes apart and reorders the combination or simply reverses it the same movements would not be repeated as they were initially introduced. Often, pieces she choreographed, such as Street Dance, were accompanied by a monologue that would explain not only her movements, but what it's about.
In Street Dance (1964), Childs created her stage on a street in Manhattan where her audience was the occupants of a nearby loft. The six-minute dance was based on its surroundings and the performers blended in with what was occurring on the street. Every so often they would point out different details about the appearance of the buildings and the assorted window displays. Although the audience was not completely able to see what exactly the performers were pointing to, they could hear the explanation from a nearby audio tape. Childs discusses the performance stating that “the result was that the spectator was called upon to envision information that existed beyond the range of actual perception...". Childs approached this piece from all different angles exploring dialect, architecture, and staging. The piece asked its viewers to look beyond what was in front of them and instead use different senses to visualize the unseen.
Later career and acting
Lucinda Childs choreographed steadily until 1968 when she decided to take a break and focus on her own style of dance. During this break, she experimented with her choreography exploring different methods.
After opening her own dance company, The Lucinda Dance Company in 1973, Childs collaborated with the likes of Robert Wilson and Philip Glass. Childs, Glass and Wilson joined together on the opera Einstein On The Beach. Childs participated as the leading performer and choreographer, and won an Obie Award for Best Actress for her performance. Childs also originated the role of Hubert Page in The Singular Life of Albert Nobbs Off-Broadway in 1982. Janet McTeer would later go on to receive an Academy Award nomination for playing the role opposite Glenn Close. She also appeared in a show titled I Was Sitting on My Patio This Guy Appeared I Thought I Was Halluciniating in 1977.
Since 1992, Childs has worked primarily in the field of opera, starting with Luc Bundy's production of Richard Strauss's Salome'. She also choreographed Bondy's production of Macbeth for the Scottish Opera in 1995. That same year, Childs directed her first opera, a production of Mozart's Zaide for La Monnaie in Brussels, Belgium. In 2001, Childs choreographed Los Angeles' Opera's Production of Wagner's Lohengrin, conducted by Kent Nagano. In 2002, Childs directed Orefeo Ed Euridice for the Scottish Opera. In 2003, Childs choreographed Ravel's Daphnis and Chloefor the Geneva Opera Ballet. Childs choreographed John Adams' opera Doctor Atomic with the San Francisco Ballet in 2007. Her recent projects include choreographing and directing Vivaldi's opera Farnace for the Opera du Rhin in 2012. In 2009, Childs received the Lifetime Achievement Bessie Award. She was also awarded by the French government, which designated her as among the highest rank of dancer performers. Besides her own productions, Childs has also choreographed for the Paris Opéra Ballet, Lyon Opera Ballet, Pacific Northwest Ballet, and the Berlin Opera Ballet.
At the 2017 Venice dance biennial she was awarded the golden lion for her lifetime achievements.
- Roslyn Sulcas, “Dance: Freeing the Inner Childs: Talking Dancer” The Village Voice (2001), IIPA, 67
- Debra Craine, The Oxford Dictionary of Dance (Oxford University Press, 2000), 102
- Debra Craine, Oxford, 102.
- Lucinda Childs, “Notes:’64-‘74”, The Drama Review: TDR, Vol. 19, no. 1, Post-Modern Dance Issue (1975), 34.
- Lucinda Childs, “Notes:’64-‘74”, 33
- Barbara Naomi Cohen-Stratyner, Biographical Dictionary of Dance (New York: Schirmer Books, London: Collier Macmillan, 1982).
- Lucinda Childs Biography
- Vehicle, online, retrieved September 25, 2008