Dance in France: A Look at Charles Weidman’s Influence on Contemporary Dance Today

This past spring, the Charles Weidman Dance Foundation had the pleasure of supplying video footage of Charles Weidman’s Lynchtown to the Centre National de Danse Contemporaine (CNDC) in Angers, France. The video footage was included in the Dance is a Weapon NDG 1932/1955 exhibit in the lobby of the Le Quai performance space from May 16 to June 17 and was free to the public. Julia Jurgilewicz, Charles Weidman Dance Foundation’s administrative assistant, and Weidman Dance alumna Claire Westby, happened to be performing at Le Quai on May 19th with Liz Gerring Dance Company and were able to stop by the exhibit. Julia recounts her tour experience, from exploring the Loire valley to taking Cunningham class at the CNDC with Robert Swinston, and visiting the Dance is a Weapon exhibit:

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“Dance is a Weapon” exhibit.

 

Getting to Angers, France was an adventure in itself. I was able to dust off my French to change some of the dancers’ train tickets to stay in Paris for a few hours. We locked up our bags at the station, then walked along the Seine river, saw the Eiffel Tower, and got a delicious Parisian breakfast. The train to Angers yielded picturesque views of French countryside chock-full of roaming cows, ancient stone houses, and rolling hills.

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The Eiffel Tower on our first, cloudy morning in Europe.

Angers itself is a quaint town complete with the glorious Cathédrale d’Angers, the sturdy 13th century Château Angers, and the steady Maine river which clips the town in two. We were fortunate enough to have the first few days off to explore the Loire valley. We took a long van ride through ancient villages to the town of Saumur where we saw the fantastical Château de Saumur and explored and ate lunch at the sprawling Château Villandry.

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Cathedral d’Angers

View from across the river Maine.

View from across the river Maine.

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The grounds at Chateau Villandry.

So far this trip sounds more like a fairy tale than the sometimes grueling, hard work of a dance company’s tour, but we were not without our sweaty rehearsals and long soaks in baths. Liz Gerring Dance Company is an extremely athletic company that allows its dancers to focus on strength and endurance. The company explores non-narrative movement derived from pedestrian gesture and athletic training. The hour-long work we were performing in Angers, Horizon, is a feat of of just that, or as Robert Johnson of New Jersey Arts put it, Horizon “is a dance for heroes.” 

The Liz Gerring Dance company in residency for Horizon. Photo by Miguel Anaya.

The Liz Gerring Dance Company in residency for Horizon. Photo by Miguel Anaya.

Before rehearsals, we had the pleasure of taking Cunningham class from Robert Swinston alongside his company’s dancers. Swinston was appointed the artistic director of the CNDC Angers in 2013, where he teaches Cunningham class, re-stages Cunningham’s dances, and creates his own works. Liz Gerring Dance Company and Swinston’s company were able to show-and-tell their dances in the studio and hang out after rehearsals to compare living and dancing in Paris and NYC. I had a great time practicing my French with these dancers and seeing the juxtaposition of Cunningham and Liz Gerring’s work.

The performance of Horizon took place at Le Quai, an amazing arts space along the Maine River. The center seeks to include dance, theater, opera, world music, and more. The facilities are a treat compared to the often cramped dressing rooms of NYC theaters and there is a great restaurant on the roof of the building. Le Quai is also a hip hang out space for the community; our first day there a skateboard and tattoo festival was going on out front. 

Liz Gerring outside Le Quai Angers.

Liz Gerring outside Le Quai Angers.

After the performance, I had some time to check out the Dance is a Weapon exhibit in the lobby of the building. It was a great exhibition with audio/video media, iconic photos, and colorful information banners. I was excited to see pictures of Charles Weidman and Martha Graham among other modern dance pioneers. Between the exhibit about early American modern dance in a home that features Cunningham’s legacy, and performing work by the next generation of contemporary choreographers, I had an array of dance influences melding to create an amazing experience.

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Photo of Charles Weidman in Race of Life included in the Dance is a Weapon exhibit.

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Julia post-performance at the Dance as a Weapon exhibit.

Julia post-performance at the Dance is a Weapon exhibit.

In Liz Gerring’s Horizon,  the dancers explore non-narrative, athletic movement to an original soundtrack by Michael Schumacher and set by Robert Wierzel. The collaborative nature of the work is reminiscent of Merce Cunningham’s creations that often incorporated multiple artists, from sound designers like John Cage to visual artists like Andy Warhol. The movement is both contemporary and inclusive of codified modern dance techniques. The NYTimes describes the work as “fluently combin[ing] modern technique with a postmodern and quasi-analytical scrutiny of pedestrians and athletes.” The dancers use similar theories from Weidman technique including fall and recovery, flattening and curving of the spine, and released and suspended movements. At the close of Horizon, I do a series of repeated falls across the stage reminiscent of the falls in Weidman’s Brahms Waltzes.

Liz Gerring Dance dancers using flat back in Horizon.

Liz Gerring Dance Company dancers using flat back in Horizon.

Doris Humphrey and Charles Weidman were interested in how gravity and momentum affected movement, an idea that is explored in rehearsal for Liz Gerring Dance Company. All affectation is stripped away, and we are asked to fall, throw, lunge, run, and jump honestly. While ballet and modern techniques are inherent in our bodies, the movements are results of gravity working for or against us and how much momentum we are allotted. Sometimes we are asked to spring from one shape to the next without “winding up”, or conversely, we are asked to gather all of our energy and hurtle across the space. This cause and effect theory is intrinsic in Weidman’s “kinetic pantomime”, though he played with the order and explored reversing these properties under a narrative context.

Charles Weidman exploring kinetic pantomime.

Charles Weidman exploring kinetic pantomime.

When I was studying for my Bachelors of Fine Arts degree at NYU, I had the pleasure of performing Weidman’s Easter Oratorio and Brahms Waltzes. A great lesson I took from learning these works was the importance of timing and duration of movement. A lot of attention was placed on how long a développé or suspension took or how still we were while holding a position. Liz Gerring’s work Horizon is centered around the duration of movement and the sustaining of shapes. Often times the music is adjusted live to our performance of the work as each movement and section can vary slightly in timing. While Weidman used these methods to convey an idea or feeling, Horizon uses timing and duration to give the audience an experience similar to a natural time lapse film- abstract, evolving, and surprising.

* For more detailed information on the characteristics of Humphrey-Weidman technique, see “A Reaffirmation of the Humphrey-Weidman Quality” by Svea Becker and Joenine Roberts, 1983, Dance Notation Journal vol 1 no 1 (available on the internet at the Dance Notation Bureau Theory Bulletin Board).

The stage at Le Quai post "Horizon" performance.

The stage at Le Quai post Horizon performance.

Myself (on the right) as a student learning Weidman's "Brahms Waltzes". Photo courtesy of Oberon's Grove.

Myself (on the right) as a student learning Weidman’s “Brahms Waltzes”. Photo courtesy of Oberon’s Grove.

The end of our tour included a train ride back to Paris where the company parted ways, some for the States and some for more Parisian nights. I was able to do some traveling through Paris, Barcelona, and Madrid. Now all back in NYC, the Liz Gerring Dance Company is now gearing up for the premier of their new work (T)here to (T)here at Baryshnikov Arts Center November 10-12th, 2016.

"(T)here to (There)" choreographed by Liz Gerring Dance premiering November 10-12th.

(T)here to (T)here choreographed by Liz Gerring premiering November 10-12th.

Me on the top of Mont Serat in Barcelona, Spain.

Me on the top of Montserrat in Barcelona, Spain.

 

 

 

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Visualization

Visualization or From a Farm in New Jersey

Robert Kosinski has shared some wonderful photos of Charles

Weidman’s last composition, Visualization or from a Farm in New Jersey.

Visualization

A program from a 1974 performance of “Visualization or From a Farm in New Jersey.”

Visualization-jpg-CWDF002Visualization-jpg-CWDF003Paying homage to his early years with Denishawn, Weidman dedicated this

dance to Ruth St. Denis. It premiered a year before Weidman’s death.

Part One is an eleven minute solo created for Janet Towner, tracing the

transformation of the cavorting farm girl, Ruthie Dennis, into the sublime

Ruth St. Denis.

Visualization-jpg-CWDF004The dance starts with the child’s exuberant and athletic

romps on the farm, her explorations of rippling arm movements, her playing

with fabric on a clothes line to create a saree, and includes two early solos

from her East Indian Series: The Yogi and Incense.

Visualization-jpg-CWDF005Visualization-jpg-CWDF006 Part Two is a pastiche of signature Denishawn dances including

Ruth’s Greek Veil Plastique and Nautch, Shawn’s Gnossienne, Japanese

Spear Dance, and Dance of Shiva, Humphrey’s first choreography for

Denishawn Valse Caprice also known as Scarf Dance, Martha Graham in Shawn’s

Serenata Morisca, Charles Weidman in Shawn’s Danse Americaine and

Crapshooter. Part Two concludes with The Garden of Kama, the first

choreographic collaboration of St. Denis and Shawn from 1915.Visualization-jpg-CWDF007 Visualization-jpg-CWDF008 Visualization-jpg-CWDF009

Lynchtown East and West

“A portrait of a community consumed by violent passions.”– Jack Anderson, NYTimes, 1985.

On April 28, 2014, Minerva Tapia Dance Group from Tijuana presented a concert as part of Jean Isaacs’ San Diego Dance Theater‘s Live Arts Festival at the White Box Theater. The dance group performed Charles Weidman’s Lynchtown, staged and directed by Weidman alumnus, George Willis. Mr. Willis was eighteen when he started dancing with Charles Weidman in California, first in Hermosa Beach and then Hollywood. He came into modern dance as a body builder and after his first class, he was “hooked.” Mr. Willis trained with Weidman for three years on scholarship until Weidman returned to the east coast. During that time, he performed Weidman’s Lynchtown, Fables for our Time, Flickers, and The War Between Men and Women.

Photo by MANUEL ROTENBERG.

Minerva Tapia Dance Group performing “Lynchtown” Photo by MANUEL ROTENBERG

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Minerva Tapia Dance Group performing “Lynchtown” Photo by MANUEL ROTENBERG

 

Just ten days before the Live Arts Festival performance in California, Lynchtown was performed here on the east coast in New York City. The Charles Weidman Dance Foundation hosted Preservation of the Charles Weidman Moving Image Archive, a fundraiser for their project with the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts. New Jersey based contemporary dance company, Nimbus Dance Works, performed Lynchtown at the event, staged by Margaret O’Sullivan and Samuel Pott.

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Nimbus Dance Works in tech rehearsal for “Lynchtown” at Gibney Dance Center before the fundraiser. Photo by LARRY HALL.

 

The Charles Weidman Dance Foundation is thrilled that Weidman’s Lynchtown is being learned and performed across America and around the world! Lynchtown, the third dance in the Atavisms suitewas first performed in 1936 and depicts a lynching that Weidman witnessed as a child. It deals with problems of racism, mob mentality, and injustice that are still widely relevant today. We at the Foundation hope that Lynchtown will continue to be studied and performed in universities, schools, and by professional companies around the world for years to come.

Lynchtown in Taiwan!

“Lynchtown” being performed in Taiwan in 1993.

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A program of a “Lynchtown” performance from 1986 in San Diego, CA.

 

photo by Mike Peters. Montclair State University, 2011

Montclair State University students performing “Lynchtown”  in 2011. Photo by MIKE PETERS.

 

Post by Julia Jurgilewicz.

 

The CWDF loses a beloved member

From the President, Board of Directors

It is with great sadness and a broken heart that I tell you Margaret O’Sullivan – dear friend, mother, grandmother, dancer, teacher, colleague, and Co-president of the Board of Directors died Tuesday October 21, 2014. The cause was cancer.

Margaret O'Sullivan in "Branches"

Margaret O’Sullivan in “Branches”

Margaret was a member of the last generation of dancers to dance with Charles Weidman in his theater dance company in the 1970’s. She appeared in Mr. Weidman’s works including the Christmas and Easter Oratorios, Lynchtown, Brahms Waltzes, Opus 51 Opening Dance, Bargain Counter, the Thurber Fables, The War Between the Men and the Women, and others. Margaret was a member of the CWDF Board of Directors since 1989 and was involved in the production of our award-winning documentary Charles Weidman: On His Own. She also participated in The Charles Weidman Dance Foundation’s presentation of our Humphrey-Weidman Gala at The Sylvia and Danny Kaye Playhouse at Hunter College in New York in 1994. Later Margaret was instrumental in arranging, staging, coaching, and teaching Mr. Weidman’s works in our educational outreach initiative at several institutions including New York University, Montclair State University, and the José Limón- Professional Dance Program. With Janet Towner she staged excerpts from the Easter Oratorio at NYU that was performed in at the 92nd Street Y Legacy Series in 2010. In 2011 Margaret staged Brahms Waltzes at NYU while coaching MSU students in Lynchtown. Both dances were performed at the 92nd Street Y for the 110th anniversary of Charles Weidman’s birth, the 75th anniversary of Lynchtown and the 50th anniversary of Brahms Waltzes. Margaret staged Lynchtown for Nimbus Dance Works, which was performed at the Alvin Ailey Theater in 2012 and all over the Northeast for Nimbus’ Lynchtown/Thistown Project in 2013. She had been tireless in her dedication to the legacy of Charles Weidman and The Charles Weidman Dance Foundation. We will miss her dearly.

Board Members Margaret O'Sullivan and Thomas McNally May 1, 1994 at the Humphrey-Weidman Gala at the Sylvia & Danny Kaye Playhouse. Photo by Larry Hall.

Board Members Margaret O’Sullivan and Thomas McNally May 1, 1994 at the Humphrey-Weidman Gala at the Sylvia & Danny Kaye Playhouse. Photo by Larry Hall.

I want to express how heart broken I feel as a result of the loss of my dear friend and colleague. Margaret and I were not only members of the CWDF board, we were members of Charles Weidman’s Theater Dance Company and performed together at the Expression of Two Arts Theater on West 29th Street in New York City. We would often reminisce about the Sunday night performances Charles gave 52 weeks a year. Margaret and I “starred” as Mary and Joseph in the Christmas Oratorio. During the recitative describing their plight in Bethlehem looking for a room, there would be a pause in the dancing. Then Margaret and I would make our way, on our knees, around the perimeter of the stage miming a knock on the door of the inns – then being turned away by the innkeeper. Sometimes, with our backs to the audience, we would kibitz with each other while
making our way from inn to inn. After each performance Charles would always invite us back to his living quarters in the back of the studio where we would talk about the performance and the audience reaction and any flubs we made during the performance – Charles spotted everything. We worked hard in class and during rehearsals, but those Sunday night performances were worth all the sweat and hard work. Margaret always remembered them fondly. She liked to tell the story of her first visit to Charles’ studio. On her first day she arrived a little early and climbed the stairs to the second floor. She knocked on the door and was flabbergasted when Charles himself opened the door and welcomed her in. After introductions, Charles showed her the “dressing” room, which was a small alcove near the front door separated from the studio by a white sheet – the men and women dressing rooms were separated by another sheet. A few more words were exchanged and as Charles headed back to the living quarters he turned to Margaret and said “And by the way, you’re very pretty!” And so shall she remain to me.

Margaret and Milly Rockefeller at the CWDF fundraiser in April 2014.

Margaret and Milly Rockefeller at the CWDF fundraiser in April 2014.

Robert Kosinski
The Charles Weidman Dance Foundation, Inc.

The Charles Weidman Dance Foundation would like to invite all who knew Margaret to send us your remembrances of her, whether through dance or not, which we will post on our website, Facebook page, and blog. We want to do this to pay tribute to her dedication to Charles Weidman and the Charles Weidman Dance Foundation and
to celebrate her life. Send your remembrances to: charlesweidman@gmail.com or to our mailing address.

Branches

On April 18th, 2014, The Charles Weidman Dance Foundation held their fundraising event, Preservation of the Charles Weidman Moving Image Archive. The goal of the Preservation Project is to raise enough money to fully preserve and digitize the Weidman archive of film and video in the Jerome Robbins Archive Division at the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts.10255928_797443500267749_356168068576485523_n

The fundraiser included two beautifully danced Weidman works. Nimbus Dance Works from Jersey City performed Lynchtown. The dancers were extremely technical and passionate and started off the night’s events with a bang! Foundation President of the Board, Robert Kosinski,  said it was one of the best performances of Lynchtown he had ever seen!

Nimbus Dance Works performing "Lynchtown" in 2013. Photo by Terry Lin.

Nimbus Dance Works performing “Lynchtown” in 2013. Photo by Terry Lin.

Attendees at the fundraiser also had the privilege to see Weidman’s trio Branches from the Easter Oratorio performed by Phoebe Rose Sandford, Sarah Hillmon, and Julia Jurgilewicz, all three Weidman alumni and members of RedCurrant Collective.  Julia Jurgilewicz staged this work from the video footage of a performance from 2010 by Tisch School of the Arts, NYU dancers at the 92nd St Y.  The Foundation’s vice-president, Margaret O’Sullivan, helped the dancers with details and intention. The dancers were graceful yet strong, and concluded the night’s performances with everyone looking forward to spring!

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Dancers in rehearsal learning from video.

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Dancers running through "Branches" before the fundraiser.

Dancers running through “Branches” before the fundraiser.

The Foundation was pleased to have such wonderful dancers performing these iconic Weidman works. Dancer Sarah Hillmon performed for the Foundation at the 92nd St Y and Baryshnikov Arts Center in excerpts of the Easter Oratorio in her first year of her undergraduate degree at Tisch, NYU. She had the fun job of relearning her part for the fundraiser that she performed four years ago in the Branches trio. She remarked how different parts were harder or easier with her new body than when she was a dance student and how special it is to be able to revisit a part after years of different trainings and performances. Today, Sarah dances with Lucinda Childs Dance,  touring often to Europe, Australia, and Asia, and has even graced the stage of BAM in Child’s Einstein on the Beach. Sarah also dances with Suzanne Beahrs Dance and is a founding member of RedCurrant Collective. Sarah is looking forward to touring to China this May.

Sarah Hillmon in Amid by Suzanne Beahrs Dance. Photo by Christopher Duggan.

Sarah in “Amid” by Suzanne Beahrs Dance. Photo by Christopher Duggan.

Sarah performing in "Branches" in 2010. Photo by Julie Lemberger.

Sarah performing in “Branches” in 2010. Photo by Julie Lemberger.

Phoebe Rose Sandford was new to Branches and did an incredible job of picking up the choreography in just three rehearsals! Phoebe performed Weidman’s Brahm’s Waltzes in 2012 at the 92nd St Y in her second year of her undergraduate degree at Tisch, NYU. Phoebe was excited to revisit Weidman technique as it was a good reminder of her ballet days as a student, but now she was able to apply her modern training and experience. Phoebe is a certified MBD yoga teacher at The Perri Institute for Mind and Body, and she also teaches dance at Cynthia King Dance Studio. She is a founding member of RedCurrant Collective, and in addition to dancing and choreographing for her collective, she dances for Anne Zuerner and mishiDance. The Foundation was so pleased to have her dance for us again!

Phoebe in "Ascending and Descending" by mishiDance. Photo by Sharon Harsa.

Phoebe in “Ascending and Descending” by mishiDance. Photo by Sharon Harsa.

Phoebe in rehearsal for Brahm's Waltzes in 2011. Photo courtesy of Oberon's Grove.

Phoebe in rehearsal for “Brahm’s Waltzes” in 2011. Photo courtesy of Oberon’s Grove.

Julia Jurgilewicz performed both the Easter Oratorio and the Brahm’s Waltzes while in her undergraduate program at Tisch, NYU.  Julia had an interesting situation with Branches where she had learned the part of Sarah Hillmon back in 2010 and then learned a different role for the fundraiser. Julia remarked that “it was like a fun puzzle, fitting together the ensemble parts that I remembered from four years ago and my new solo moments.” She enjoyed performing the work with her deeper understanding of movement and appreciated the opportunity to see how much had changed in her dancing in four years. Julia has  performed in three productions at the Metropolitan Opera and dances for Suzanne Beahrs Dance, Bodystories:Teresa Fellion Dance, and Erica Essner Performance Co-Op. When she is not dancing, Julia works for Ballet Tech bringing free ballet training to public school students in the five boroughs. She is looking forward to dancing in Bulgaria this June and creating her own work through RedCurrant Collective to be presented in the fall.

Julia dancing in "Amid" by Suzanne Beahrs Dance. Photo by Christopher Duggan.

Julia dancing in “Amid” by Suzanne Beahrs Dance. Photo by Christopher Duggan.

 

Julia in rehearsal for "Brahm's Waltzes" in 2011. Photo courtesy of Oberon's Grove.

Julia in rehearsal for “Brahm’s Waltzes” in 2011. Photo courtesy of Oberon’s Grove.

The Charles Weidman Dance Foundation is lucky to have such wonderful dancers donating their time, skill, and passion to keeping Charles Weidman’s legacy alive and is pleased that the Foundation’s relationship with Tisch Dance has flourished with continued collaborations. The Foundation looks forward to hopefully staging more Weidman works on the world’s talented dancers and students. To find out more about the Foundation’s missions and goals, visit our website at www.charlesweidman.org.

 

Post by Julia Jurgilewicz

 

Carry on… Newsletters from 1992-1995

We know you have been itching to read more of our Carry on… newsletters. The wait is over! Here are four more gems of Weidman history for you! Enjoy Carry on… from 1992-1995 the original way enthusiasts kept up to date on Weidman happenings!

Lynchtown in Taiwan!

Lynchtown in Taiwan!

Carry On 1992

Announcing the completion of Jonette Lancos’s thesis entitled The Movement Style and Technique of Charles Weidman and a two week summer intensive in Weidman technique!

Carry On 1993

Carol Mezzacappa reflects on her incredible journey to Taiwan with SUNY Purchase dancers to teach Taiwanese dance students Weidman’s Lynchtown. They formed an intimidating and beautiful cast and performed Lynchtown at the Taipei International Festival of Dance Academies.

Carry On 1994

Announcing the Humphrey-Weidman Gala held on Sunday May 1st, 1994 at Hunter College. The amazing program featured Weidman’s Submerged Cathedral, On My Mother’s Side and David and Goliath as well as Humphrey’s Life of the Bee and The Shakers, to name just a few.

Carry On 1995

Featuring reviews from Dance View and Back Stage on the Humphrey-Weidman Gala of 1994 with one opening line stating that the show was “one of the most important programs seen this season- or, for that matter- in recent years” (Jennie Schulman, Back Stage)! I’d say that’s a five star review!

Charles Weidman and the New Dance Group

“The story of the New Dance Group is one of constant experiment, of continued branching out, of conceiving new ideas and coming to new conclusions”1

The New Dance Group was founded in 1932 by Nadia Chilkovsky, Miriam Blecher and other students from the New York Wigman School who wanted dance to focus more on social and political causes. New Dance Group stated in their first program that “Dance is a Weapon of the Class Struggle”2 and sought to offer inexpensive dance classes to all ranges of workers and people alike. Classes cost ten cents and consisted of one hour of Wigman technique, one hour of creative work and one hour of discussion.

New Dance Group Class Schedule

New Dance Group Class Schedule 1959-1960

New Dance Group Class Schedule 1959-1960

New Dance Group Class Schedule 1959-1960

Gradually the interest in the proletariat “was replaced by a more general sense of humanity”3 and the curriculum branched out to include Humphrey-Weidman, Graham, eurythmics, percussion, folk, ballet and tap, in addition to the original Wigman and Holm technique.

Weidman's "Classroom Modern Style"  Millie Hirsch Rockefeller an, Lucy Biberman

Weidman’s “Classroom Modern Style” Front: Millie Hirsch Rockefeller and Behind: Lucy Biberman

By 1934, Charles Weidman was giving studio talks and appearing on New Dance Group programs. Other Humphrey-Weidman men such as Bill Matons, William Archibald and Jose Limon were also early participants. Humphrey-Weidman technique became a staple, taught by Beatrice Seckler, Nona Schurman, Bill Bales, Joe Gifford and others. Weidman continued his association with the New Dance Group at least until 1960, when he founded his own “Expression of Two Arts” studio on 29th Street.

"Mostly About Women" with Charles seated in front

“Mostly About Women” by Charles Weidman. Top row from left to right: Murray Berkowitz, Millie Hirsch, Lucy Biberman, Joe Whiteaker, Louis falco. Bottom row:Jack Wiener, Miriam Pandor, Charles Weidman, Marsha Gevins, Loretta Abbot, Ralph Davis, Charlotte Walsh.

Weidman's "Mostly About Women"
Weidman’s “Mostly About Women”. Top row left to right: Millie Hirsch, Joe Whiteaker, Lucy Biberman, Murray Berkowitz, Patricia Nachman. Bottom row: Ralph Davis, Loretta Abbot, Jack Wiener, Charlotte Walsh

At the 92nd Street Y’s extraordinary celebration of the New Dance Group this past February, we had the opportunity to learn about Weidman’s later work at the New Dance Group. Dancer and dance educator, Millie Hirsch Rockefeller, presented photos, programs and class schedules from this time, as well as information on two dances not previously included in Weidman chronologies, “The Convert” and “Mostly About Women”.

Portion of program showing "Mostly About Women"

Portion of 1959 program showing redicovered dances: “Mostly About Women” and “The Convert”

Millie Hirsch Rockefeller as The Reluctant One in "War Against Men and Women"
Millie Hirsch Rockefeller as The Reluctant One in “War Between Men and Women”

New Dance Group closed their doors in 2009 and now, unsuspecting dancers take class and attend rehearsals in what used to be New Dance Group studios, now DANY Studios operated by The Joyce Theater.

For more information on New Dance Group, check out this article by Victoria Philips.

1Lloyd, Margaret. The Borzoi Book of Modern Dance, Dance Horizons, 1949.

2Philips, Victoria. New Dance Group (1932-2009), Dance Heritage Coalition, 2012.

3King, Eleanor. Transformations, Dance Horizons,1978.

Words by Nadira Hall

Post by Julia Jurgilewicz

Dr. Jeff Friedman’s lecture on Weidman’s “Lynchtown”

“…in Lynchtown (from his Atavisms suite) grim horror was the keynote. In this work, the audience witnessed not only the injustice with which a minority group of our population has been treated but also the primitive blood lust, the sadism which supposedly civilized persons reveal when a scapegoat for their savagery is found. Lynch Town strikes home, it strikes the very being of the American, for the trembling evil of the lynchers themselves and the evil of the lookers-on who share vicariously in the horrible thrill seem to vibrate across the footlights and attack the complacency of those who sit in the safety of the theater. The dancers move with racing frenzy, halting to look at death with lust and, perhaps, with fear. A figure stretches forward to get a better view of murder, and horror stretches along the invisible waves of art communications to remind the beholder that the battle for ‘the land of the free and the home of the brave’ is not yet won.” -From Walter Terry, The Dance in America, Harper & Row, 1956

Weidman's "Lynchtown"

Weidman’s “Lynchtown”

 

 

On May 7, in historic downtown Jersey City, Tachair Bookshoppe hosted a fascinating, multimedia lecture by Dr. Jeff Friedman. “Weidman’s Lynchtown: American Dialectics, Moral Questions and the Art of Persuasion” considered Weidman’s work from a dazzling array of perspectives including Laban Movement Analysis, Piaget’s ideas on the development of morality in children, and Cicero’s importance of gesture in Oratory.

Yuko

Nimbus Dancer Yuko Monden

Nimbus Dance Works dancer, Yuko Monden, demonstrated movement from Lynchtown as Dr. Friedman related them to Laban’s concepts of free flow, bound flow, weight, spoking and arcing. The entrance walk of the lynch mob is an example of “bound flow”, while Monden’s final exit as she leaps off the stage is “free flow.”  Using archival footage, Friedman also showed how the lynch mob’s entrance creates a “wall of movement” that physically and emotionally separates the audience from the victim.

Dr. Friedman went on to discuss Weidman’s early interest in comedy and satire.  Archival photos of The Happy Hypocrite (1931) and The School for Husbands (1933) (choreographed with Doris Humphrey) were used as examples. Dr. Friedman’s comments on the social significance of satire were especially interesting.

Charles Weidman in The Happy Hypocrite (1930's)

Charles Weidman in The Happy Hypocrite (1930’s)

The lecture was followed by a lively discussion on a wide range of topics including the psychological challenges faced by performers in portraying such evil, the choice of the smallest dancer to portray “the Incitor” character of the mob, how the dances in Atavisms (Stock Exchange, Bargain Counter, and Lynchtown) relate to current events, mob behavior, and how best  to teach about fascism.

Bargain Counter

Bargain Counter

If you missed Dr. Friedman’s lecture, you still have one more opportunity to attend on May 23 at 7pm at the Highland Park Public Library, 31 North Highland Park, Highland Park, NJ.  For live performances of  Lynchtown, don’t miss Nimbus Dance Works’ Jersey City spring season, “UNPLUGGED” May 30,31, and June 1 at the Barrow Mansion, 83 Wayne Street, Jersey City.

Highland Park Public Library

Highland Park Public Library

 

Words by Nadira Hall

Pauline Koner Centennial Celebration

On May 17th, 2013, dance lovers and connoisseurs will have a rare opportunity to see the choreography of Pauline Koner. Preeminent Koner expert, Evelyn Shepard, has lovingly and painstakingly reconstructed three important Koner works that will be presented at the 92nd Street Y’s Fridays at Noon series.

Pauline Koner

Dancefusion Company will perform Concertino (1955). The  dance takes place in the time of the Renaissance where “a lady and her ladies-in-waiting  are first at court” where they present themselves as “elegant, formal, conversational.” Next  a solo reveals “the woman behind the elegant façade” and is followed by a lively dance where “the wear and tear of court formality are forgotten.”

Ryoko Kudo and Pablo Francisco Ruvalcaba of the Jose Limon Dance Company will perform Poeme (1962), a ”tender yet provocative” love duet,”influenced by Chagall*, whose women, when transported emotionally, fly in the air or soar upside down.”

"Dance" by Marc Chagall

“Dance” by Marc Chagall

360 Dance Company will perform The Shining Dark (1956), a trio inspired by the life of Helen Keller. In Pauline’s words: “ I had long been thinking about Helen Keller whose only medium of communication was movement—the manual alphabet…so I dug in and learned the manual alphabet”. The dance is comprised of four sections: “World of Nothingness,” “World of Awakening,” “Panic of Loss,” and “Remembered Image.”

Danelle Morgan in Pauline Koner's The Shining Dark; photography © Jashiro Dean

Danelle Morgan in Pauline Koner’s The Shining Dark; photography © Jashiro Dean

While dance maverick Pauline Koner is impossible to categorize, we consider her part of the Humphrey Weidman family. Pauline Koner’s initial dance training was with Michel Fokine. Early on she pursued her own solo career, while also performing extensively with Michio Ito and then Yeichi Nimura. In the mid 1940s, seeking guidance in the choreographic process, she began a long association with Doris Humphrey.  Especially memorable for her role as Emilia in Limon’s Moor’s Pavane,  Koner was also a guest artist with the Jose Limon Dance Company from 1946-1960.

Jose Limon rehearsing with Pauline Koner

Jose Limon rehearsing with Pauline Koner

Less known is Koner’s association with Charles Weidman. Inspired by Abner Dean’s** drawings, Pauline became intrigued with creating a satire on “the insanities, complexities and hilarities of living.” As the characters “crystallized”, she naturally thought of Weidman. “I approached Charles with trepidation. After all he was a senior member in the hierarchy of modern dance. Charles accepted and I was thrilled.” Thus, Amorous Adventure was born. Pauline played “A Kind of Wife” and Charles  ”A Sort of Husband”, while Lucas Hoving portrayed “Variations from the Norm.” After it’s premiere in 1951, Winthrop Palmer wrote: “Pauline Koner’s Amorous Adventure …was a delightful spoofing of comic eugenics and the battle of the sexes with never a moment of social significance, for which it deserves a gold medal…”

Drawing by Abner Dean

Drawing by Abner Dean

Also a noted teacher, Koner developed her famous course “Elements of Performing.” Her elegantly articulated concepts of breath, suspension, rebound, and weight could easily be part of a primer on Humphrey Weidman technique.

Don’t miss this chance to see Pauline Koner’s artistic creations. Films will be shown in the lobby starting at 11:00 AM, followed by live performance and panel discussion at noon.

Friday May 17, 2013

92nd Street Y Harkness Dance Center

1395 Lexington Avenue, NY, NY

To learn more about the event, visit the 92nd St Y website here.

All quotes from Solitary Song by Pauline Koner, Duke University Press, 1989

Also recommended: Elements of Performance by Pauline Koner, Harwood Academic Publishers, 1993

*Marc Chagall (1887-1985) was a Russian born artist known for his use of many artistic mediums including painting, stage sets, book illustrations, and ceramics to name a few

**Abner Dean (1910  – 1982) was an American cartoonist who often depicted extremes of human behavior