By Patricia Boccadoro
PARIS, 28 NOVEMBER 2016 In an Autumn tribute to the postmodern
American choreographer, Lucinda Childs, Dance, one of her most
important works, was programmed at the Theatre de la Ville, while
Available Light, a work but rarely seen, was presented at the
Chatelet Theatre. Concurrently, an exhibition of her work, Lucinda
Childs, Nothing Personal, including over 300 videos, texts and
original dance scores, is being shown at the Thaddaeus Ropac Gallery
and the CND Centre National de la Danse.
The tribute began with a restaging of her emblematic piece,
Dance, created for her own company in 1979, but interpreted by
the Ballet de lOpéra de Lyon on this occasion.
"They asked me for permission to dance the work", Childs told me at the
Chatelet, "and I was pleased with the result. We worked together for maybe
a few weeks, in fits and starts. We also made a new filmography to replace
Sol Lewitts early video which I thought was very successful."
Set to a commissioned, minimalist score by Philip Glass, whom Childs
met in the early 70s, with a filmed video by Sol Lewitt which was
superimposed upon the dancers, the piece was revolutionary for the time.
Minimalist as regards the movements, composed of a series of repetitive
jumps, turns, and small rapid steps,* the structure itself was more
elaborate. Of particular interest were the patterns the dancers made as
they crisscrossed the stage, first skimming horizontally across in waves
of two, then leaping across in groups of three and four before coming
forwards from the back to the front of the stage and subsequently turning
around in circles. Simultaneously Lewitts giant-sized, luminous video of
them dancing floated above their heads in a second layer of movement. All
the while, the dance steps with their resulting patterns synchronized
perfectly with the score.
Ballet de lOpéra de Lyon in Dance
Photo: Jaime Roque de la Cruz
The dancers themselves, all classically trained, many of the women
having studied at the Paris Opera School, were lovely. They were graceful,
fluid, air-borne, and accurate. One false move and the whole effect would
have collapsed, especially in the first part of the work, where, clad in
white, their arms outstretched, the choreography played upon their double,
both live on stage and in the video.
Noelle Conjeaud, a lovely dancer who began her career at the Paris
Opera Ballet, performed an interesting solo in the second part of the
work, the solo interpreted by Childs herself in 1979. It was followed by a
last movement where four women and four men returned to the gestures of
the first part of the piece, where small, subtle changes had been made to
the same small steps, jumps and turns.
However the excellence of the interpretation, the precision and grace
which one could both admire and appreciate, did not hide the fact that the
work, fascinating as it must have been nearly 40 years ago, contained not
a gram of emotion and left one feeling uninvolved despite the
framework of lightness and evanescence that Lewitts designs bestowed.
After the undeniable beauty of Dance, Available
Light, the two-part minimalist dance work created four years later
and seen the following evening at the Chatelet, had little to offer,
despite its complementary theme of verticality. More earthbound and
revolutionary in 1983 when it was created, it seems more of a curiosity
today regardless of the attractive start which had eight dancers
silhouetted against a striking metal construction erected on two
Ballet de lOpéra de Lyon in Available
Choreography: Lucinda Childs
Photo: Craig T.
The 55-minute piece was the result of a collaboration
between Childs, designer Frank Gehry and John Adams. Indeed, Adams score,
Light over Water, rendered it more atmospheric than
Dance, the work being described in the programme notes as being
"both similar yet different at the same time". The horizontal of
Dance was been replaced by a verticality in Available
Light, where the dancers evolved on two levels, a dancer above
echoing the movements of the dancer below in a separated duo, and the eye
was also caught by various trios and quartets with the interpreters
dancing in unison. It is a methodical, mechanical creation where Childs
interpreters remain totally impassive throughout. The costumes, in red,
black or white, were unremarkable.
The retrospective of Childs
work at the CND de Danse and the Thaddaeus Gallery in Paris on view
through 17 December 2016, covers the choreographers work for over 30
years, illustrating how her unique language marked contemporary dance.
Organised chronologically, it unites not only Childs own scores, but
films and works of other artists with whom she collaborated, including
In the 1960s, Lucinda Childs was part of an experimental group of
musicians and artists who presented their work at the Judson Memorial
Church. Founding her own company in 1973, she also worked with Robert
Wilson on his landmark opera Einstein on the Beach three years
later. It was during these years that she developed her new, minimalist,
repetitive dance, the "walk, jump and turn" style which is somewhat dated
*Leaving the theatre, it was quite amusing to see members of the public
perfectly performing the same steps we had seen inside the amphitheatre.
Patricia Boccadoro writes on dance in Europe. She has
contributed to The Guardian, The Observer and Dancing Times and was dance
consultant to the BBC Omnibus documentary on Rudolf Nureyev. Based in
Paris, Patricia Boccadoro is the dance editor for