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Some Notes on the Danse Macabre

However slow the dance, a certain vitality is required of the dancer. Anyone with technique-based training has the musculature of a professional athlete, and must be in robust health in order to perform. An aura of spontaneity surrounds the cultural attitude toward dancing: social dances take place at celebratory functions, and people who call themselves “fun-loving” will say that they like to dance, too. Stepping in time to a rhythm is generally thought to be a life-affirming gesture, and a hop-skip counts as an unequivocal statement of joy.

Part 1 of 2 on “Platform 2015: Dancers, Buildings, and People in the Streets”

Edwin Denby died in 1983. I met him in 2006 (he would have been 103), if reading him counts as meeting him. I was taking a dance criticism course, and my teacher, Mindy Aloff, assigned his Dance Writings and Poetry, introducing me to endlessly readable essays like “Three Sides of Agon” (even the title makes you want to hold it up, inspect the choreography) and “Against Meaning in Ballet,” which I now assign to my students.


When I met with Gillian Walsh to talk about her new piece, Scenario: Script to Perform, I immediately asked her about the write-up on The Kitchen’s website. It was the language, after all—phrases like “numerical codes,” “toward form and away from performance,” and “structural choreographic thought without a dance”—that got me curious. Walsh told me that she had written the text herself, in conversation with curator Matthew Lyons. Over the course of our interview, Walsh articulated the conceptual underpinnings of her work, and even more importantly, the stakes raised in making it.


The Brooklyn Rail

APR 2015

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