Grand Union, 2018

 

Grand Union (2018)

REMAKE of critical and theoretical texts on postmodern dance:

Rooted in the minimalist aesthetic of the 60s but seeking a greater level of intimacy and athleticism, seven New York artists, performers in the broadest sense, came together to form what could be described as a family. Over a matter of years, the Grand Union, as the group came to be called, provided the sustained contact necessary for its members to practice and experiment, try and fail. Many of its members had children and one finds evidence of this influence in Grand Union’s willingness to play and pretend. 

Most Grand Union performances took place in gymnasiums, churches or galleries that could afford a theater-in-the-round, makeshift atmosphere. Viewers often entered to find the lights up, and members already moving around—stretching or arranging props to be used later in the show. The performers would sometimes coalesce briefly in duets or trios before returning to their individual pursuits, or else a small group might persist, proposing various structures for their heretofore unrelated activities. 

This general preparation gradually evolved into the performance itself, although no specific beginning was ever announced. Suddenly, out of a collage of movement, common household objects, and excerpts from music popular at the time, an archetypal vignette or choreographic phrase would emerge. Dynamics like this can be seen on video in performance libraries and special reading rooms. These tapes offer a rare look back—sometimes fascinating, sometimes tedious—at a ridiculously romanticized time when the doors of possibility had been blown open. 

Enamored with this footage but otherwise ignorant of the lives of performers, I asked my own family back to the gracious, accommodating house where we spent summers growing up. Over the course of a long weekend in August, nestled behind the remnants of a tall white picket fence, bas­reliefs of urns ornamenting the conventional clapboard structure in which we slept, ate and got married, we agreed, if not to be curious then to see nonetheless what might happen on account of timing, quiet time and a level of attention I don’t recall being there when we were young.

RESEARCH for Grand Union (2018) in the form of a family slideshow, an investigation into the resonance, unlikely overlap, and difference between the New York my siblings and I once inhabited and the New York of postmodern dance.