Melody Excerpt


Melody Excerpt premiered at the Brooklyn Academy of Music in November 1977. Melody Excerpt was revived in 1981, and then again by Ty Boomershine (Childs’ assistant) in 2010 for students at de Theaterschool, Amsterdam’s School of the Arts.

Melody Excerpt in performance, Friday, October 4, 2013, at FringeArts, Philadelphia. Dancers: Megan Bridge, Nora Gibson, Janet Pilla, Michele Tantoco, and Annie Wilson. Displayed on the right is Jorge Cousineau’s animation of Childs’ score for Melody Excerpt.

Melody Excerpt is a dance for five. Performed in silence, three 10-count phrases are repeated in a systematized order, the pathways of which remain fixed throughout the dance. At no point in the dance is any pattern or combination repeated in exactly the same way, so that every 10-count section is unique. The pathways are intricately rehearsed and are adapted to the cast. The dancers are advised not to adjust for or to second-guess another’s pathway because this dance can only be performed straight through if each dancer maintains concentration and fidelity to her individual trajectory. What may look at times like chaos is, in fact, precisely choreographed movement.

The title Melody Excerpt refers to the 10-count phrasing of the work. Because phrases commonly occur in eight counts in western music, this 10-count phrasing leaves one musically “hanging.” Thus, the melody becomes “excerpted.”

October 4, 2013



Megan Bridge
Nora Gibson
Janet Pilla
Michele Tantoco
Annie Wilson

Production collaborators

Lighting: Gregory Bain

"Melody Excerpt was filmed in 1977 by the filmmaker Cynthia Hampton, so it is quite well documented. [Even] at our first meeting in 2010, the dancers responded well to working with the score, as they can follow their individual parts in relation to the other four dancers. I was impressed with how well the dancers managed to work together as a team: for the timing, since there is no musical accompaniment; for the spacing, which must be very precise; for the concentration, which is absolute; but also the intense camaraderie, which results in laughter at mistakes and with everyone (not just myself) trying to make sure that no one is ever completely discouraged."
—Lucinda Childs, 2013

Premiere: November 3–6, 1977

Brooklyn Academy of Music, New York

First cast

Lucinda Childs
Cynthia Hedstrom
Daniel McCusker
Judy Padow
Andé Peck

Production collaborators

Costumes: Christina Giannini
Lighting: Beverly Emmons

Additional works on program

Transverse Exchanges (1976)
Duplicate Suite (1975)
Radial Courses (1976)
Plaza (1977)
Interior Drama (1977)

Subsequent dates of program

November 20–21, 1977
Rotterdamse Schouwburg, Rotterdam

November 24, 1977
Sigma Festival des Arts et Tendances Contemporaines, Bordeaux

November 26, 1977
Maison de la Culture de Rennes, France

November 28–29, December 1–4, 1977
15th Festival International de Danse de Paris, Théâtre des Champs Elysées

Subsequent performance with the same cast

September 16–17, 1978
15th Annual New York Dance Festival at the Delacorte Theater, New York

March 12–15, 1981

Marymount Manhattan Theater
New York


Jumay Chu
Pascale Hanrion
Meg Harper
Daniel McCusker
Andé Peck

Production collaborators

Costumes: Christina Giannini
Lighting: Beverly Emmons

Additional works on program

Interior Drama (1977)
Relative Calm (excerpts, 1981)

December 9, 2010

de Theaterschool, Amsterdamse Hogeschool voor Kunsten


“White Cast”
Eliana Carvalho
Airen Koopmans
Mayke van Kruchten
Tijana Prendovic
Donna Scholten

“Blue Cast”
Lisa Feij
Floortje Rosa Hartog
Bojana Mitrovic
Melissa Rondeau
Anne Roze

Restaged by Ty Boomershine.

Performance history as of December 2014.

Catulli Carmina: Prologue [and] Melody Excerpt-1978
New York Public Library, Jerome Robbins Dance Division
Research Call Number: *MGZIC 5-639
Notes: Videotaped in performance during the New York Dance Festival at the Delacorte Theatre on September 16, 1978 by Johannes Holub

Melody Excerpt [and] Duplicate suite
New York Public Library, Jerome Robbins Dance Division
Research Call Number: *MGZIC 5-527
Notes: Videotaped on November 3, 1977 at the Brooklyn Academy of Music, NY by Greg Tonning.
Rehearsal, in costume
Choreography: Lucinda Childs
Costumes: Christina Giannini
Performed by Lucinda Childs and company

Melody Excerpt
New York Public Library, Jerome Robbins Dance Division
Research Call Number: *MGZHB 6-1926
Notes: Filmed outdoors at C. W. Post Center of Long Island University by Cynthia Hampton and Mark Shelley
Choreography: Lucinda Childs
Performed by Lucinda Childs, Cynthia Hedstrom, Daniel McCusker, Judy Padow, and Andé Peck

My score for Melody Excerpt is a two-dimensional black-and-white overhead view of the dance, specifically the paths in space of each dancer within set time intervals of the same length. This idea was inspired by the drawings of Arch Lauterer, who traced the paths in space of each of Martha Graham’s solos.* They capture what we would have seen at the end of each of her solos if her steps in space had been a brush stroke of black on a white surface. With Melody Excerpt, a dance for five dancers, these paths overlap, and I was fascinated by the patterns that emerged in the finished score, as they demonstrate that no one configuration of the three phrases in the dance are ever combined in the same way. I always thought, however, that it would be beautiful to have these patterns unfold in space and time so that the spatial directions and interactions of the dancers could be observed in the real time of the dance, emphasized by using color to identify each of them. The animation of the paths in space provides the possibility of simultaneous viewing of the score of the dance alongside of the dancers dancing.

*Several of Arch Lauterer’s drawings of Graham’s solos are published in Merle Armitage, Martha Graham, Dance Horizons, 1966.

Archival Media

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