Renowned dancer to innovate with Yalies

Dance icon, choreographer, filmmaker and performance artist Yvonne Rainer will bring together Yale’s art community for a series of events in February.

Rainer will give two public lectures and two invite-only workshops as well as present a screening of two of her movies — her 1972 film “Lives of Performers” and her 2012 “Assisted Living: Do You Have Any Money?.” All events have been organized by the Dance Studies curriculum in conjunction with the Yale School of Art.

“Rainer has essentially rerouted the history of performance,” said Emily Coates, a Theatre Studies lecturer and Yale Dance Theatre’s faculty director. “She is now credited with pioneering what we would call ‘post-modern’ dance aesthetics.”

Coates explained that Rainer emerged as a dancer and performance artist as part of the Judson Dance Theatre — a dance group that performed at the Judson Memorial Church in Greenwich Village in the 1960s. After creating several dance and performance pieces, she transitioned into filmmaking in the early 1970s, where her work influenced the development of avant-garde cinema. In 1999, at the invitation of ballet dancer and choreographer Mikhail Barychnikov, Rainer reentered the dance world. She created work for Baryshnikov’s ensemble, the White Oak Company, which Coates joined in 1998. It was in this context that Coates first met Rainer, Coates noted, adding that she has worked with the renowned dancer for the past fourteen years.

Coates said she thinks the two workshops, which will be held on Feb. 22 and March 1, will provide Yale students with the exciting opportunity to innovate with the dancer. A “hand-picked,” cross-disciplinary group of 12 undergraduate and graduate students from the Dance Studies curriculum and the School of Art — some trained dancers, others practicing artists — will be working directly with Rainer to develop ideas for her latest work during each work shop, she said.

“I think the most significant thing about Rainer’s visits is the workshop series,” said Aren Vastola ’14, a student coordinator for the Dance Studies curriculum. “Rainer will actually be developing ideas for her upcoming new work with a group of Yale students … this is an instance of a practicing artist actually coming in and creating something brand new. If these generative events continue, I can see Yale becoming a creative hub for resident artists, which will significantly enrich the campus climate.”

Samuel Messer, the Associate Dean of the School of Art, said he thinks that the opportunity to create with an artist whose work they would otherwise only encounter in an academic setting is invaluable, adding that because Reiner’s work is steeped in both art and dance history, her visit will raise students’ awareness of their own work’s ability to span different fields.

Karlanna Lewis SOM ’15, a student coordinator for the Dance Studies curriculum, also noted that Rainer’s work borrows from multiple disciplines, and that her visit will contribute to the interdisciplinary nature of the University’s dance studies program.

“The dance studies program situates itself at an interesting crux between theater studies, art history and the broader scholarship of Yale,” Lewis explained. “Rainer’s visit brings living testament to the Yale dance studies program that interdisciplinary work can exist and grow stronger for its crossover, that students can pursue twin passions and create their own bridges that unite.”

Coates stressed the importance of the upcoming events for the emerging partnership between the Dance Studies curriculum and the School of Art.

“The dance world and visual art world are in a moment of reignited interest with each other — dance is being featured in museums and galleries [and] visual artists are drawing on the history of dance in their practice,” Coates noted. “With this partnership….we aim to be on the forefront of this current movement.”

Yvonne Rainer will be at Yale on the weekends of Feb. 21-22 and Feb. 28 to March 1.

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