After spending her childhood and adolescence in San Francisco, Yvonne Rainer moved to New York in 1956. Between 1959 and 1960, she studied dance at the Martha Graham School, while learning ballet at Ballet Arts. In the early 1960s, she participated in Ann Halprin’s workshops and studiously attended classes by Merce Cunningham, where she met a number of her future collaborators. In 1962, she became a founding member of the Judson Dance Theatre. Much like other choreographers of her era, Rainer sought to blur the stark line separating dancers from non-dancers. Inspired by John Cage’s indeterminacy notions, she created her performances according to a series of generic tasks that integrated day-to-day gestures into a dance vocabulary (walking, running, lifting, etc.). Rainer created many of the best-known works produced by the Judson, including We Shall Run
(1963) and Part of a Sextet
While creating At My Body’s House
(1963), she asked engineers Billy Klüver and Harold Hodges to modify miniature radio transmitters to amplify the sounds of her breathing. In 1966, she premiered Trio A
, the first section of her work The Mind is a Muscle
. This sequence prohibits the dancers from looking at the audience while performing an uninterrupted series of complex movements. Trio A
later became an independent work and was performed by Rainer and a number of other artists. Although she had integrated projected images into her performance environments since the mid 1960s, Rainer wrote and directed her first medium length film, Lives of Performers
, in 1972.
In 1975, she began to focus primarily on making medium and full-length films, in which she reinvested narrative codes. Her films then took a distinctly feminist turn, exploring such themes as terrorism (Journeys from Berlin/1971
, 1980), social exclusion (Privilege
, 1990) and illness (MURDER and murder
, 1996). Between 2000 and 2006, she returned to choreography and created two new works: After Many a Summer Dies the Swan
(2000), a group performance commissioned by the Baryshnikov Dance Foundation, and AG Indexical, With a Little Help From H.M.
(2006). Rainer taught in the Whitney Independent Program from 1974 onward, and since 2005 she has been emeritus professor at the University of California, Irvine (Irvine, California, U.S.).
[Documents available in the collection about Yvonne Rainer...]
[Documents available in the collection by Yvonne Rainer...]