Critics recognize Yale dancers

The World Performance Project at Yale won worldwide recognition last week for two of its avant-garde performances.

The dance pieces, which were funded by the interdisciplinary WPP, were named the Best Performances of 2009 by the International Association of Art Critics — a body of critics representing 64 nations. School of Drama Dean James Bundy DRA ’95 said in an e-mail that the organization is one of the most important global resources for critical discourse about the arts.

The two recognized dances — “RoS Indexical” and “Spiraling Down” — were both choreographed by avant-garde American dancer Yvonne Rainer. They were performed at Yale during the 2008-2009 Festival of International Dance as part of “No Boundaries,” a series of performances co-sponsored by the WPP and the Yale Repertory Theatre.

Both of the award-winning dances feature Emily Coates, artistic director of the WPP and a lecturer in theater studies. Coates said she worked with Rainer to create performances that explore the history of avant-garde dance and trace the influences that have shaped its development.

“We really wanted to look at the global circulation of artists, points of connection, overlapping influences and the places where influences completely diverge.” she said.

The first piece, “RoS Indexical,” is a revision of “The Rite of Spring” — a highly influential, turn-of-the-century ballet with music by Igor Stravinsky and choreography by Vaslav Nijinsky.

“Rainer draws together fragments of choreography from a range of reconstructions,” Coates explained. “They span from those aiming to authentically revive the original to a myriad of other artists’ interpretations of that same score. She then inserts her own post-modern spin.”

“Spiraling Down” draws on famous images from dance history. Coates said she studied a range of important images in an attempt to embody them physically, down to details such as facial expressions and hand gestures.

Joseph Roach, the founder and principle investigator of the WPP, said Rainer has always been ahead of her time.

“She is a brilliant and innovative performer who sees in six dimensions and always seems to be in the next decade,” he said. “For her, it’s always about the avant-garde.”

The WPP was established by Roach, a theater studies professor, after he received a $1.5 million Andrew W. Mellon grant. It seeks to incorporate performance arts with global diversity on the Yale campus, often in collaboration with the Yale Repertory Theatre. The project has introduced dance as an academic discipline in the theater studies program curriculum and aims to promote academic research about performance art.

While Dean for the Arts Susan Cahan said dance is still an emerging art at Yale, she said the AICA award “catapults Yale’s engagement with dance to the highest level.”

“There is incredible work going on in the area of dance, but most people don’t know about it,” Cahan said.

The AICA award ceremony will take place March 2.

Lauren Motzkin contributed reporting.

Comments