Skip to main content

Revolutionary choreographer Yvonne Rainer joins forces with ASU for pioneering project and dance concert


March 18, 2003

TEMPE, Ariz. – The Department of Dance in the Herberger College of Fine Arts at Arizona State University pioneers a new digital classroom in a remarkable collaboration with modern dance great Yvonne Rainer. The result will change how dance can be taught and has the potential to advance scholarship across disciplines.

For this pilot project, Rainer is setting her historic work “Chair/Pillow,” which defined new territory in dance when it premiered in 1969, on ASU dance students and Valley high school students. However, digital classroom technology will extend the reach of the project. Using an interactive Web site that progresses traditional Web-based curricula through inclusion of telematics, students and teachers anywhere can share experiences with the choreographer, notator, re-stager and performers in real time.

(When data communicates between systems and devices – when telecommunications and computing combine – that’s telematics.)

Dance faculty Mila Parrish and Kathy Lindholm Lane head up the ambitious project and have produced the Web site. The project began with a grant funded by the Herberger College of Fine Arts in July 2002 and is slated for completion in June 2003. “Chair/Pillow” will premiere in the Valley as part of the dance concert Graduate Showings on April 8 and 10.

More on the Project

The Web site is titled Interactive Gateway and this first project with Rainer is called “Happenings: Yvonne Rainer and the Postmodern Movement.”

The Web site features social, historical and artistic links as part of the online high school curriculum. Edited, digitized movies of artist and participant interviews supply the source material and are facilitated through telematic communication. The result is a complex, multi-layered and dynamic resource for teachers and students everywhere.

The site can be found at http://artswork.asu.edu/ig/index.htm

Professors of dance Mila Parrish and Kathy Lindholm Lane are uniquely qualified to collaborate on a project of this scope. As a curriculum designer, Lane is known for uniting diverse populations to forge community partnerships in dance and is a leader in arts education advocacy. Parrish is internationally recognized for her work in dance documentation and interactive CD-ROM development and a pioneer in the fusion of technology and movement education.

Lane says the student dancers have a unique opportunity with this project. “They are collaborating to learn about Rainer, the postmodern movement in the arts, and the social and historical environment of the sixties and improvise together in preparation for learning and performing this work,” Lane says.

“They are identifying Rainer’s movement style and her importance to the field. “Chair/Pillow” will be analyzed, providing the students with insight into the intricacies of the artistic, historical and social influences involved in its creation.”

Parrish adds that assessment and documentation of the project have been occurring throughout the process. It has the capacity to revolutionize how not only dance, but also many disciplines, are taught.

“Journals, participant observation, videotapes of rehearsals and focus groups with the teens and university students are included in this evaluation,” Parrish says. “The online curriculum and instructional resource material and experiences available from this research will be a unique gateway for understanding and advancing dialogue in the arts.”

A Herberger College of Fine Arts Research and Creative Activity grant made this project possible. The college’s Department of Dance, Institute for Studies in the Arts, Instructional Technology and Artswork have all contributed to its success.

More on the Concert

“Chair/Pillow” premiered in 1969 as part of the offerings at New York’s historic Judson Church Theatre, which Rainer founded. The piece represents the aesthetic shift occurring during the 1960s in dance during which, to paraphrase critic and dance writer Sally Banes, any body danced anywhere doing any movement, using any method.

After seeing a performance of “Chair/Pillow” in 1969, New York Times dance critic Allen Hughes said, “All sorts of zany things happen in their efforts to push away the barriers they find impeding the process of dance… we are not talking about quality of product. What we are talking about is the unleashing of ideas.”

“Chair/Pillow” is part of the modern dance concert Graduate Showings, which runs April 8 and 10, 2003, at 7:30 p.m. in Dance Studio Theatre, in the Physical Education Building East Room 132. Tickets are $10 for general admission and $5 for students. For tickets or more information, the public may call 480-965-6447.

Graduate Showings is a modern dance event comprised of 18 pieces choreographed by the department’s outstanding graduate students – and Rainer’s piece. Rainer’s “Chair/Pillow” is the only piece that will be performed both nights; the remaining 17 pieces are split over two nights.

Part of our Scholarship Series, all proceeds from these concerts go toward funding and awarding scholarship money to undergraduate and graduate students.

The choreographers in “Graduate Showings” are:

Tuesday, April 8
Yvonne Rainer
Ying Yang (group)
Missy Bischoff
Leanne Schmidt
Siew Wong
Frances Goritsas
Lenna Jacome 
Casey Blake (trio)
Casey Blake (group)

Thursday, April 10
Yvonne Rainer
Aaron Fellenz
Rosa Lina Lima-DeJesus
Nancy Happel (video)
David Titchnell
Min Kim (group)
Nancy Happel (video) 
Min Kim (duet)
Cynthia Roses-Thema (solo)
Rayn Hookala (group video)

The Department of Dance is committed to providing a stimulating and diverse environment where students develop as scholars, educators and artists through participation in innovative programs, residencies, performances and partnerships.

The department is nationally ranked in the top 10 by Dance Teacher Now magazine. Its graduate program is ranked fifth and its undergraduate program is ranked ninth. The ARCO Performance Arts College Guide calls the department one of the “most highly recommended programs” in the country.

Media Contact:
Megan Krause
480-965-8795
megan.krause@asu.edu