Who's at the Center? Lucinda Childs

16 Jul 2013


Lucinda Childs. Photo by Cameron Wittig, courtesy of Pomegranate Arts.

The Pew Center for Arts & Heritage is continuing to build on the relationship that it has developed with choreographer Lucinda Childs, recovering dances she choreographed in the 1960s and '70s with a cast of Philadelphia dancers. In June 2013, Childs and assistant Ty Boomershine were in town, rehearsing for performances that would be staged in late September. Some of the dances had not been performed in decades, offering Philadelphia audiences the unique opportunity to witness these works—a living archive of the Judson and post-Judson era.

The reconstruction of these works is part of a larger initiative that will become the fourth entry in the the Center's danceworkbook series. This workbook will include photos, videos, and choreographic diagrams from Childs' personal archive, as well as original essays and interactive video of the current reconstruction.

Full bio:

Lucinda Childs is one of America's most important modern choreographers. Of her work, which is often described as conceptual dance, she has said, "My dances are an intense experience, of intense looking and listening." Childs was born 1940 in New York City. In her second year at Sarah Lawrence College, she took a class with visiting professor Merce Cunningham. After she completed her degree, she went on to study at the Cunningham Studio. There she met Yvonne Rainer, who went on to co-found (with Steve Paxton) New York's influential Judson Dance Theater and who invited Childs to be one of Judson's original company members. Childs has described this period thusly: "Nothing is necessarily extraneous to dance, including the professionally trained dancer's susceptibility to the influence of nonprofessionals. The Judson Dance Theater concerned itself with this idea...materials as objects combining dance phrases with movement activity in relation to objects...a unified idiom of action, but a cumulative trend of activity that did not follow along one isolated scheme."

After she formed her own company in 1973, Childs collaborated with Robert Wilson and Philip Glass on the opera Einstein on the Beach, participating as leading performer and choreographer (she also took part in the opera's revivals in 1984 and 1992). It was during rehearsals for Einstein that Childs and Glass came up with the original idea for Dance. In a Washington Post review of Dance, Alan M. Kriegsman wrote, "A few times, at most, in the course of a decade, a work of art comes along that makes a genuine breakthrough, defining for us new modes of perception and feeling and clearly belonging as much to the future as to the present. Such a work is Dance." Philadelphia's FringeArts presented Dance as the Center-funded centerpiece of its 2010 festival.

Along with Glass, LeWitt, and Wilson, Childs has worked with such artists, composers, and directors as John Adams, Frank Gehry, Henryk Górecki, Robert Mapplethorpe, Terry Riley, and Iannis Xenakis. Childs received a Guggenheim Fellowship in 1979, the year she created Dance. She is also the recipient of the NEA/NEFA American Masterpiece Award, and in 2004 she was elevated from the rank of officer to Commander in France's Order of Arts and Letters.