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LUCINDA CHILDS' DANCE – ODETTE MACKENZIE

To a knowledgeable dance audience, the name “Lucinda Childs” invokes a strong, elegantly severe presence, along with the choreographic concept of “minimalism”. She embodied a simplicity of movement that was unflourished, presenting a purer interpretation of dance that limited extravagance in design elements. Childs’ work “Dance” is a revival of the 1979 performance that 32 years ago stirred up controversy in the dance world. People questioned “is this dance?” or “is this merely a simplistic form of movement that requires minimal technique and skill?” The work analytically dissected the purity of dance in the geometry of the space. The movement coincides with the recharging rhythms of Philip Glass’s music and Sol Le Witt’s film of the same work projected on the scrim, providing a ghostly echo of the live performance, and an audience insight into the past. A transparent scrim divided the audience from the dancers onstage and allowed for the projection of the original black and white film footage from the 1979 production. The dancers synchronistically followed the same movements as those on the film. The combination of both the new and the old reveals that the work was of its time, but it is also timeless in its universal quality. The impact of both the dancers on screen, working in collaboration with the 2012 dancers, acts as a vision of how we would all move in dance utopia: a ceaselessly fluid, buoyant sweep of simple steps that sends dancers assiduously weaving across the stage.

An androgynous sense is created through the simplistic approach to the entirely white costume. This lack of individuality was exactly the choreographic intension Childs aimed to achieve, connecting further to dance being stripped of its commercial and materialistic value. It is interesting to note that the majority of women in the film footage had short hair. The political context of the 70’s was the feminist movement. Childs’ intention was to emphasize the idea that skill has nothing to do with gender and that women should not be considered physically weaker to men in this sense. It is for this reason that all the figures on stage appear sexless and anonymous, further linking to the choreographic intension of dance as a pure form in which sexual identity is irrelevant.

It is brave of Lucinda Childs to call her work “Dance”-simple yet extremely confident. However this choice can be justified. In seeing the 2012 production, the audience is allowed a glimpse of a work that is not just “here and now,” but we also get a taste of what has gone before. To force a narrative meaning on the production would be a mistake; we should rather relish the combination of all the elements that create the desired effect.  The overall impact of physical movement, music and film, echoed the concept of waves against the shore-sometimes lapping, often crashing, but always intriguing.