Restaging Lucinda Childs: Another Perspective

by Ty Boomershine

Lucinda and I had spoken often about restaging some of her earlier works that are performed without musical accompaniment. Most of these pieces I only know the titles of, which added to their attraction and mystery: Melody Excerpt, Reclining Rondo, Congeries on Edges for 20 Obliques, and Transverse Exchanges. Having danced Radial Courses myself and seen Interior Drama, I could only imagine what these unknown pieces looked, sounded, and felt like.1

My obsession was further fueled when Lucinda told me of her first performances in Paris with her company (November 1977), an entire evening of works in silence, and the controversy that followed.2 I thought then, and still believe, that this would be an amazing evening of dance in today’s performance climate. In preparation for this, and in the hopes that it could one day happen with Lucinda’s own dancers, I suggested to Lucinda that we use schools as staging grounds for reviving these old works. She was positive about the idea, but worried that it would be too much work to get them back. I’ve managed to continue to insist that all of her early works be restaged by live performers in the hopes that we can indeed present a program of these pieces. At the time, I was teaching technique classes at the Modern Theater Dance department of the Amsterdam University of the Arts (Amsterdam Hoogeschool voor de Kunst), which is the equivalent of a BFA track dance department at a United States university. I presented the idea to Angela Linssen, the director of the Opleiding Moderne Theaterdans (Training Modern Theatre Dance) at de Theaterschool Amsterdamse Hogeschool voor Kunsten, Amsterdam, of restaging one of these pieces that hadn’t been performed since the 1970s. She immediately said yes, and off I went.

I restaged Melody Excerpt entirely from Lucinda’s scores, which, when I compared to the video, I discovered were incomplete. The condensed version (the score with the entire dance on one long sheet of paper) was correct. However, the large master score, or book, that she gave me was missing a few passes. She has since corrected the master.3

When I started teaching the piece, the dancers were quite put off by the fact that there were only three ten count phrases. Their collective response was, "Is that it?” But after working for a few weeks, learning from the score, memorizing their different trajectories, and seeing both the difficulty and the reward in succeeding, even the most cynical student was won over by the piece and its subtle excitement.

As the school insisted I use all of the women from that year (the men were being used in an all-male piece by another choreographer), I made two casts, one of which I had perform the piece facing the back wall, allowing the audience to see the work from another perspective. I staged the piece in four weeks, with one week in the theater before the premiere on December 9, 2010.

Ty Boomershine has danced for Lucinda Childs since 1991. He currently assists Childs in the setting of her works in the United States and Europe and was instrumental in restaging the dances highlighted in this publication on the Philadelphia cast.

  1. 1

    Radial Courses, July 27–30, 1995, Festival d’Avignon, Cour d’Honneur du Palais des Papes; Interior Drama, September 1990 at the 4ème Biennale de la Danse, Théâtre National Populaire, Villeurbanne, France.

  2. 2

    Childs recalls the response to her work as having “many different kinds of reactions, most of them feeling, ‘well, that’s not dance.’” This quote is from the question and answer period during the “Works(s) on View” showing of Interior Drama and Melody Excerpt produced by The Pew Center for Arts & Heritage at the Performance Garage, Philadelphia, November 11, 2011.

  3. 3

    This master score is the version that is the basis for the animation of Melody Excerpt in Philadelphia and is included in this workbook.

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