On reviving parades & changes, replays.
Mon Nov 9 2009
NO RAIN ON THIS PARADE Scenes from Collod's replays; Photographs: Jerme...
Between 1965 and 1967, Anna Halprin presented 12 versions of Parades and Changes. The dance, which incorporated composer Morton Subotnick’s scores—they ostensibly transformed a dancer into a musician, or a musician into a dancer—was banned in New York for its seemingly nonchalant use of nudity. (One of Subotnick’s scores is called “dress and undress,” which is exactly what the dancers do.) In her book Moving Toward Life: Five Decades of Transformational Dance, Halprin—in an interview with Nancy Stark Smith—says, “It was made fun of by the New York Times: 'The no-pants dancers from San Francisco.’ ” She professes her surprise at the reaction, explaining, “We had gone to Sweden where there was nothing radical about what we did. The use of nudity was accepted as a ceremony of trust.”
Now Parades and Changes is recognized as a seminal work that inspired many Judson choreographers, including Trisha Brown and Yvonne Rainer. More than 40 years later, French choreographer Anne Collod is not exactly reviving, but reinterpreting the dance under the watchful eyes of Halprin and Subotnick, an innovator of electronic music. In parades & changes, replays, which will be performed at Dance Theater Workshop as part of its Season of Returns, six performers (including Collod) reframe the piece for today. “You know you will not watch the original, of course,” Collod says. “That’s why I made this project: to keep it alive.”
Collod has long been inspired by aspects of dance history (she cofounded the organization Quatuor Albrecht Knust, which was dedicated to re-creating 20th-century works). In the case of Parades, however, it wasn’t the specific dance but rather her interest in the themes of utopias of collectives that led her to Halprin, who, during the ’70s, switched her artistic aim to focus on themes of dance and healing; her dance studio, with its famous outdoor deck, is revered for its communal, spiritual, quality. In 2003, Collod took her first trip to Kentfield, California, where Halprin lives and works, to meet the choreographer and spend time researching her archives. “I can tell you, after you work there, you have difficulties going back into a dance studio because it’s so amazingly rich in terms of kinesthetic information and experiences,” Collod says. “And I really wanted to meet her at her place because I knew she was working with nature. I thought that was the most evident way to understand more about her work.”
Along with her research, Collod took part in workshops with Halprin. “I had the feeling I was there directly as an artist and that I could really meet her and her work from today,” Collod explains. “But the more I was researching, the more I felt that her work of today was totally the natural continuity of her work from the ’50s and ’60s.”
Parades and Changes is structured around a series of scores, devised by Subotnick (“embrace” and “stomp dance” are two examples); the quality of the actual movement was not so final. “Some of them were really precise, but with others we had the activity without that much information about them,” she explains. “So I kept interviewing Anna and also Morton about what kind of memories they had of the sequences and also gaining elements of information from one or two archive films.” Inevitably, certain sequences had to be reinvented.
“The piece has been always going back and forth between our work and Anna’s feedback and not trying to do as they were doing in the past, because that is impossible and not so interesting,” Collod says, “and at the same time, not going into something totally new.”
If one thing was resoundingly clear to Collod during the course of the project, it is Halprin’s integral influence on contemporary dance. In many ways parades & changes, replays was conceived as a way to acknowledge Halprin’s achievements, or as Collod explains, “what she made possible for us as artists.”
That sentiment is also reflected in the performers’ backgrounds; the cast is composed of choreographers, including Alain Buffard, DD Dorvillier and Vera Mantero—replays isn’t just another job. “In France, Anna’s work was not known when I started,” Collod says. “A lot of people told me, 'It’s totally has-been,’ or 'It’s going to be something for a museum.’ And I knew the piece was really not about that, but to be sure that people understood it was something related to history—not from a museum point of view—I decided to work with choreographers who were known as today’s choreographers. That was a way to affirm that it was a current reinterpretation and that I was not pretending I was reconstructing the piece.” The other reason is rooted in practicality. “I knew we wouldn’t have that much time to really work on it,” she says, laughing. “So I wanted to have really major people who were really very artistically responsible.”
Parades & changes, replays is at Dance Theater Workhop Wed 18--Nov 21.
The composer on parades & changes, replay.