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The Majesty of Minimal

Sadly, I am unable to see the upcoming remount of the landmark Dance, the three-part 1979 collaboration between choreographer Lucinda Childs, composer Philip Glass and visual artist Sol LeWitt. (On view April 7 – 9 at the McGuire Theater) What I am doing here instead is blogging about the sole related event I could attend, […]

Sadly, I am unable to see the upcoming remount of the landmark Dance, the three-part 1979 collaboration between choreographer Lucinda Childs, composer Philip Glass and visual artist Sol LeWitt. (On view April 7 – 9 at the McGuire Theater) What I am doing here instead is blogging about the sole related event I could attend, yesterday’s workshop “Controversy to Cannon: Watching Lucinda Childs’ Dance.”
 

Led by Walker tour guide Jessica Fiala and offered through EXCO (Experimental Community Education of the Twin Cities), this comprehensive 3-hour intensive was a lesson in Art Through the Ages. From Marie Taglioni’s first ventures onto pointe to the current production of Dance, we traced how minimalist dance work grew out of a response against Ballet, passing through Duncan, Graham and Cunningham in the process. In the 1960’s New York’s Judson Dance Theater took all that formalized training and stripped it. New modern dance works (postmodern) became elemental and the body became democratic. Enter Lucinda Childs.
 

In the workshop we watched a filmed excerpt of Dance. This, combined with other of her works that I’ve seen live and on video, makes me feel as though she straddles aesthetic worlds. Her work has a pedestrian physicality whose virtuosity is in the relentless repetitions and accumulations that is a trademark of Minimalism, AND her musicality is strictly structured; her dances are the music, a Classical virtue.
 

Sometimes her work lathers to a boiling point like in Concerto. At others there is no arc, and we are left to add up the sum of the parts on our own. My guess is that the later is the case in Dance. I say this in part because of the score by Philip Glass whose music propels forward ad infinitum, the pace and dynamic tone unchanging. Its trajectory is different than what we are used to hearing in western music.
 

Add to this the film by Sol LeWitt that plays on a scrim in front of the performing space, simultaneous to the live action. The film is of the original cast, executing the dance on a surface of white squares, thus identifying it as LeWitt conceived. (Sol LeWitt: 2D+3D is on view through April 24. Go see it. See the shadows. See the shapes. See the maps on the wall and the executions of his directives. See the windows into his mind and open yours.)
 

I wish I could see Dance live. I wish I could see the enormous and perhaps overpowering filmed dancers layered over the live ones. I wish I could see and in the seeing see both past and present. I wish I could see the new cast performing with the old, thus prolonging this work of art’s live life. I wish I could see time measured through this piece, comparing not dancer to dancer, but era to era. I wish I could see.
 

It is ironic that I attended a workshop about how to watch a dance that I can’t actually see. And yet I had one of the richest dance experiences I’ve had in a long time. What I saw instead is all the stuff around the dance: the timeline, its context, the blueprint and its shadows.