Valda Setterfield

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Valda Setterfield
Born (1934-09-17) September 17, 1934 (age 82)
Margate, Kent, United Kingdom
Occupation dancer, actress
Years active 1958–present
Spouse(s) David Gordon
Children Ain Gordon

Valda Setterfield (born September 17, 1934) is a British postmodern dancer and actress, noted for her work as a soloist with the Merce Cunningham Dance Company and for her performances in works by her husband, postmodern choreographer and director David Gordon. She has been described as his muse.[1] Their son, playwright and actor Ain Gordon, has worked with Setterfield on a number of projects as well.

Life and career[edit]

In England, Setterfield trained in ballet with Marie Rambert and Audrey De Vos, and mime with Tamara Karsavina, and performed in English pantomime. She also performed in an Italian revue.[2][3] In 1958, on the promise of a scholarship to study with José Limón,[3] she came to the United States,[3] following her good friend David Vaughan.[4] Vaughan and Setterfield have remained good friends.

Setterfield appeared with the improvisational dance company The Grand Union[3] 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). 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)[5] 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.[6] She danced in Gus Solomons Jr.'s A Thin Frost in 1994.

In film, Setterfield has appeared in the work of Yvonne Rainer and Brian de Palma,[3] 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.[7] She has also played the role of Bertolt Brecht in Gordon’s Uncivil Wars, which is based on Brechts's Roundheads and Pointheads.[8]

Setterfield has appeared in Jonah Bokaer's Player & Prayer (2008, with Carmen De Lavallade and Gus Solomons Jr.), Anchises (2010) and Occupant (2013).

Awards and honors[edit]

In 1984 Setterfield received a New York Dance and Performance Award (Bessie), and in 1995 she, David Gordon and Ain Gordon received an Obie Award for their performances in The Family Business at Dance Theatre Workshop and New York Theatre Workshop. She received a second Bessie in 2006 for outstanding achievement.

See also[edit]



  1. ^ Friedman, Lisa. "David Gordon: A Cult Choreographer Takes Center Stage". Dial (August 1986)
  2. ^ Smith, Amanda. "David Gordon: Keeping the Options Open" Dancemagazine (February 1981)
  3. ^ a b c d e Croce, Arlene. "Profiles: Making Work" The New Yorker (November 29, 1982)
  4. ^ Robertson, Allen. "Valda Setterfield - The early years" Dance Theatre Journal (Autumn 1985).
  5. ^ Gussow, Mel. "Review/Theater; A Flamboyant Tribute to Duchamp's World" New York Times (December 18, 1992)
  6. ^ "Art, Life & Show-Biz: A Non-Fiction Play" on
  7. ^ Isherwood, Charles (2004-12-03). "A Couple Plays a Couple". New York Times. Retrieved 2010-07-14. 
  8. ^ LeFevre, Camille. "'Uncivil Wars': Bush era prompted David Gordon to revisit land of roundheads, pointheads, war and deficits" MinnPost (March 11, 2009)

External links[edit]