Monday, November 7, 2016

Looking at Lucinda, then and now

Scenes from Dance (2009) by Lucinda Childs
(photos: Sally Cohn)

I regret missing Barnard College Dance Department's recent evening with Lucinda Childs and French filmmaker Patrick Bensard, director of the 2005 documentary, Lucinda Childs. Just short of an hour, the film traces notable influences and milestones in the dance artist's career--her exposure to the aesthetics of Cunningham and Cage, explorations with her fellow Judson iconoclasts such as Yvonne Rainer, magisterial flights through the Philip Glass/Robert Wilson universe.

It is Wilson, interviewed by Bensard, who best sums up the multitude within Childs, the mixed feelings she and her elegant, minimalist aesthetic can stir in a viewer. He describes a being at once soft and severe, hot and cold, and he appears to love her every polarized contradiction. The film includes wonderful excerpts of Childs, Mikhail Baryshnikov and other dancers performing her choreography--skimming the floor and slicing through air like figure skaters, earth and its gravity mere playthings to these mercurial figures.

Worth any price of admission are the brief glimpses of her solo Carnation, made in 1964 when I was 12 and a decade away from starting to write about dance. Maybe only a woman as frosty-looking as Childs could be this wickedly clever, surreal and funny in her ritualistic precision, crowning herself with a flexible strainer basket, carefully stuffing kitchen sponges into her mouth and fanning the stack open like a duck's bill.  How I wish I could see it performed live now.

* * *

See the fall season of The Lucinda Childs Dance Company at The Joyce Theater, November 29-December 11. The first week's program includes the New York premiere of a Joyce commission, The Sun Roars Into View (2016), and the second week features Childs's signature work, Dance (1979) with a commissioned score by Philip Glass and the original film decor by Sol LeWitt.

For information and tickets, click here.

The Joyce Theater
175 Eighth Avenue (corner of 19th Street), Manhattan
(map/directions)

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