Wednesday, July 24, 2019 (7:30pm)
5213 Grays Ave. Rm. 228
Introduced by Terry Fox, director of Philadelphia Dance Projects.
Yvonne Rainer’s debut feature after several short films and multimedia dance works, Lives of Performers marked her definitive transition from performance to filmmaking. Five years after the watershed moment of Rainer’s first performance of Trio A (1966) in which she rebelled against prevailing tendencies in dance by seamlessly and anti-spectacularly ordering simple movements with her eyes averted from the audience, she had lost interest in performing. The resulting film grew out of Grand Union Dreams, a performance by Rainer’s horizontalist dance collective, Grand Union, which was her first attempt to incorporate characters into her work.
Lives of Performers begins with Grand Union members rehearsing followed by still photographs of a performance with Rainer and Co.’s narration. What develops is a melodramatic narrative of a love triangle between three of the dancers, two women and a man, and the power relations between them in the company. As each of the performers use their given names, Rainer blurs the distinctions between each level of performance: their performance in the film, their previous performances in Grand Union Dreams, their real life personal history, and their societally imposed gender roles. And each of these slippery distinctions are heightened by all of Rainer’s purposeful narrative disjunctions.
With the transition to film Rainer was able to shift her concerns fully to what she thought was lacking in her dance work, narratives involving relationships and emotions and the material conditions that structure them with her growing connection to the feminist movement. With Rainer’s increasing dissatisfaction with her dance collective, the film is also a record of 1960s utopianism facing the cold hard facts of structural power. Like Trio A before it, Lives of Performers stripped-down and disillusioned its form, reimagining the possibilities of narrative film.
Terry Fox, Director of Philadelphia Dance Projects (PDP), is on the Faculty in the Theatre & Dance Department at Rowan University and in the Dance Department of the Boyer College of Music and Dance, Temple University. As an artist she was one of the first in Philadelphia to explore postmodernism with improvisational structures in performance and performed Trio A with Yvonne Rainer in 1969.