Radial Courses, a no-music dance exhibition at MoMA, is a worthwhile slog
Art is about connection, whether the artist longing for it or not – a piece of art always creates or re-creates a dialog. This is even more apparently so when the piece is cold, formal, and devoid of emotions, as is the case of choreographic experiments of a pioneer of post-modern dance Lucinda Childs.
To observe the reenactment of Lucinda Childs’ early performances, staged as part of the exhibition titled Judson Dance Theater: The Work Is Never Done at New York’s MoMA, is to be forced to work harder emotionally in order to fill the emerging gap between highly charged emotions, invoked by watching other people dance, and the attributes of Childs’ choreography: robotic, repetitive, often clinical movements with motionless faces.
WHO: Lucinda Childs Performance
WHAT: Pastime, Calico Mingling, Radial Courses, Katema
WHEN: October 29 (until November 4, 2018)
There is no music to accompany the minimalistic, mathematically structured movements. The dancers are all dressed in a uniform of white t-shirts and pants. Their postures stay straight, remaining unchanged from neck to waist through the entire one-hour program. The seven-piece performance commences with Pastime, which is Childs’ first work, a three-part dance set to Philip Corner’s recorded score of water sounds (the only piece of the program accompanied by sound), first performed in 1963 at Judson Memorial Church. One dancer tries to stay balanced on one foot; another, wrapped in a cocoon-like fabric, with feet periodically appearing above, reenacting a bather in a bathtub; yet another is bent at the waist – all of them change positions without altering the basic movements.
In Radial Courses four male dancers are following the path shaped as a circle, with sudden, yet precisely calculated changes in pace, direction, and pairing of hands, which made me think of a broken clock. It is the fourth of November – the day when Daylight Saving Time ended, and the Radial Courses geometrical dance raised the questions about broken time, but also about its abstract nature.
Toward the end of the performance I began to feel bored and impatient, yet when I walked out on the streets of New York its aftermath suddenly hit me, like a revelation during a meditation practice. I saw a connection – seemingly disorderly movements morphed into unity, forming a dance. That was also the day of the New York City Marathon and, having just left MoMA, I suddenly saw the marathon runners as dancers. And isn’t it what the art is for — to rewire your vision and to reveal connections invisible before?