Sample G09 from Selma Jeanne Cohen, "Avant-Garde Choreography" Reprinted from Criticism a quarterly for literature and the arts vol. III, no.1 (Winter, 1961), 24-28, by permission of the Wayne State University Press. 0010-1800 A part of the XML version of the Brown Corpus2,011 words 103 (5.1%) quotesG09

Selma Jeanne Cohen, "Avant-Garde Choreography" Reprinted from Criticism a quarterly for literature and the arts vol. III, no.1 (Winter, 1961), 24-28, by permission of the Wayne State University Press. 0010-1800

Arbitrary Hyphens: neo-dadaist [0060]front-back [1100]Typographical Errors: light color, and sound [1170]kaleidescope [1290]

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Another element to concern the choreographer is that of the visual devices of the theatre . Most avant-garde creators , true to their interest in the self-sufficiency of pure movement , have tended to dress their dancers in simple lines and solid colors ( often black ) and to give them a bare cyclorama for a setting . But Robert Rauschenberg , the neo-dadaist artist , has collaborated with several of them . He has designed a matching backdrop and costumes of points of color on white for Mr. Cunningham's Summerspace , so that dancers and background merge into a shimmering unity . For Mr. Taylor's Images And Reflections she made some diaphanous tents that alternately hide and reveal the performer , and a girl's cape lined with grass . Mr. Nikolais has made a distinctive contribution to the arts of costume and decor . In fact , he calls his productions dance-theatre works of motion , shape , light , and sound . To raise the dancer out of his personal , pedestrian self , Mr. Nikolais has experimented with relating him to a larger , environmental orbit . He began with masks to make the dancer identify himself with the creature he appeared to be . He went on to use objects -- hoops , poles , capes -- which he employed as extensions of the body of the dancer , who moved with them . The depersonalization continued as the dancer was further metamorphosed by the play of lights upon his figure . In each case , the object , the color , even the percussive sounds of the electronic score were designed to become part of the theatrical being of the performer . The dancer who never loosens her hold on a parasol , begins to feel that it is part of herself . Or , clad from head to toe in fabric stretched over a series of hoops , the performer may well lose his sense of self in being a `` finial '' . As the dancer is depersonalized , his accouterments are animized , and the combined elements give birth to a new being . From this being come new movement ideas that utilize dancer and property as a single unit .

Thus , the avant-garde choreographers have extended the scope of materials available for dance composition . But , since they have rejected both narrative and emotional continuity , how are they to unify the impressive array of materials at their disposal ? ? Some look deliberately to devices used by creators in the other arts and apply corresponding methods to their own work . Others , less consciously but quite probably influenced by the trends of the times , experiment with approaches that parallel those of the contemporary poet , painter , and musician .

An approach that has appealed to some choreographers is reminiscent of Charles Olson's statement of the process of projective verse : `` one perception must immediately and directly lead to a further perception '' . The creator trusts his intuition to lead him along a path that has internal validity because it mirrors the reality of his experience . He disdains external restrictions -- conventional syntax , traditional metre . The unit of form is determined subjectively : `` the Heart , by the way of the Breath , to the Line '' . The test of form is fidelity to the experience , a gauge also accepted by the abstract expressionist painters .

An earlier but still influential school of painting , surrealism , had suggested the way of dealing with the dream experience , that event in which seemingly incongruous objects are linked together through the curious associations of the subconscious . The resulting picture might appear a maze of restless confusions and contradictions , but it is more true to life than a portrait of an artificially contrived order . The contemporary painter tends to depict not the concrete objects of his experience but their essences as revealed in abstractions of their lines , colors , masses , and energies . He is still concerned , however , with a personal event . He accepts the accidents of his brushwork because they provide evidence of the vitality of the experience of creation . The work must be true to both the physical and the spiritual character of the experience .

Some painters have less interest in the experience of the moment , with its attendant urgencies and ambiguities , than in looking beyond the flux of particular impressions to a higher , more serene level of truth . Rather than putting their trust in ephemeral sensations they seek form in the stable relationships of pure design , which symbolize an order more real than the disorder of the perceptual world . The concept remains subjective . But in this approach it is the artist's ultimate insight , rather than his immediate impressions , that gives form to the work .

Others look to more objective devices of order . The musician employing the serial technique of composition establishes a mathematical system of rotations that , once set in motion , determines the sequence of pitches and even of rhythms and intensities . The composer may reverse or invert the order of his original set of intervals ( or rhythms or dynamic changes ) . He may even alter the pattern by applying a scheme of random numbers . But he cannot order his elements by will , either rational or inspired . The system works as an impersonal mechanism . Musicians who use the chance method also exclude subjective control of formal development . Again , the composer must select his own materials . But a tossing of coins , with perhaps the added safeguard of reference to the oracles of the I Ching , the Chinese Book Of Changes , dictates the handling of the chosen materials .

Avant-garde choreographers , seeking new forms of continuity for their new vocabulary of movements , have turned to similar approaches . Some let dances take their form from the experience of creation . According to Katherine Litz , `` the becoming , the process of realization , is the dance '' . The process stipulates that the choreographer sense the quality of the initial movement he has discovered and that he feel the rightness of the quality that is to follow it . The sequence may involve a sharp contrast : for example , a quiet meditative sway of the body succeeded by a violent leap ; ; or it may involve more subtle distinctions : the sway may be gradually minimized or enlarged , its rhythmic emphasis may be slightly modified , or it may be transferred to become a movement of only the arms or the head . Even the least alteration will change the quality . An exploration of these possible relationships constitutes the process of creation and thereby gives form to the dance .

The approach to the depiction of the experience of creation may be analytic , as it is for Miss Litz , or spontaneous , as it is for Merle Marsicano . She , too , is concerned with `` the becoming , the process of realization '' , but she does not think in terms of subtle variations of spatial or temporal patterns . The design is determined emotionally : `` I must reach into myself for the spring that will send me catapulting recklessly into the chaos of event with which the dance confronts me '' . Looking back , Miss Marsicano feels that her ideas may have been influenced by those of Jackson Pollock . At one time she felt impelled to make dances that `` moved all over the stage '' , much as Pollock's paintings move violently over the full extent of the canvas . But her conscious need was to break away from constricting patterns of form , a need to let the experience shape itself .

Midi Garth also believes in subjective continuity that begins with the feeling engendered by an initial movement . It may be a free front-back swing of the leg , leading to a sideways swing of the arm that develops into a turn and the sensation of taking off from the ground . This became a dance called Prelude To Flight . A pervading quality of free lyricism and a building from turns close to the ground towards jumps into the air gives the work its central focus .

Alwin Nikolais objects to art as an outpouring of personal emotion . He seeks to make his dancers more `` godlike '' by relating them to the impersonal elements of shape , light , color , and sound . If his dancers are sometimes made to look as if they might be creatures from Mars , this is consistent with his intention of placing them in the orbit of another world , a world in which they are freed of their pedestrian identities . It is through the metamorphosed dancer that the germ of form is discovered . In his recognition of his impersonal self the dancer moves , and this self , in the `` first revealed stroke of its existence '' , states the theme from which all else must follow . The theme may be the formation of a shape from which other shapes evolve . It may be a reaction to a percussive sound , the following movements constituting further reactions . It may establish the relation of the figure of the dancer to light and color , in which case changes in the light or color will set off a kaleidescope of visual designs . Unconcerned with the practical function of his actions , the dancer is engrossed exclusively in their `` motional content '' . Movements unfold freely because they are uninhibited by emotional bias or purposive drive . But the metamorphosis must come first .

Though he is also concerned with freeing dance from pedestrian modes of activity , Merce Cunningham has selected a very different method for achieving his aim . He rejects all subjectively motivated continuity , any line of action related to the concept of cause and effect . He bases his approach on the belief that anything can follow anything . An order can be chanced rather than chosen , and this approach produces an experience that is `` free and discovered rather than bound and remembered '' . Thus , there is freshness not only in the individual movements of the dance but in the shape of their continuity as well . Chance , he finds , enables him to create `` a world beyond imagination '' . He cites with pleasure the comment of a lady , who exclaimed after a concert : `` Why , it's extremely interesting . But I would never have thought of it myself '' .

The sequence of movements in a Cunningham dance is unlike any sequence to be seen in life . At one side of the stage a dancer jumps excitedly ; ; nearby , another sits motionless , while still another is twirling an umbrella . A man and a girl happen to meet ; ; they look straight at the audience , not at each other . He lifts her , puts her down , and walks off , neither pleased nor disturbed , as if nothing had happened . If one dancer slaps another , the victim may do a pirouette , sit down , or offer his assailant a fork and spoon . Events occur without apparent reason . Their consequences are irrelevant -- or there are no consequences at all .

The sequence is determined by chance , and Mr. Cunningham makes use of any one of several chance devices . He may toss coins ; ; he may take slips of paper from a grab bag . The answers derived by these means may determine not only the temporal organization of the dance but also its spatial design , special slips designating the location on the stage where the movement is to be performed . The other variables include the dancer who is to perform the movement and the length of time he is to take in its performance . The only factors that are personally set by the choreographer are the movements themselves , the number of the dancers , and the approximate total duration of the dance . The `` approximate '' is important , because even after the order of the work has been established by the chance method , the result is not inviolable . Each performance may be different . If a work is divided into several large segments , a last-minute drawing of random numbers may determine the order of the segments for any particular performance . And any sequence can not only change its positions in the work but can even be eliminated from it altogether .

Mr. Cunningham tries not to cheat the chance method ; ; he adheres to its dictates as faithfully as he can . However , there is always the possibility that chance will make demands the dancers find impossible to execute . Then the choreographer must arbitrate . He must rearrange matters so that two performers do not bump into each other . He must construct transitions so that a dancer who is told to lie prone one second and to leap wildly the next will have some physical preparation for the leap .