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Yvonne Rainer

Carriage Discreteness (background)

Yvonne Rainer, At My Body’s House, 1963.
Photo by Peter Moore © Barbara Moore/Licensed by VAGA, NY.
At the time 9 Evenings was performed, Yvonne Rainer was considered to be one of the most promising choreographers of the Judson Dance Theater, which she found. Several years later, in the mid-1970s, she would give up dance in order to devote herself to film.

Rainer was far from being a technology enthusiast, and Carriage Discreteness is the only one of her choreographed pieces to incorporate technology into its very structure. There was a single precedent for this: At My Body's House (1964). (1) In that piece she used a microphone attached to her throat to amplify the sounds of her breathing. This wireless device was the work of Billy Klüver. Rainer originally wanted to amplify her heartbeat, but the technology required for such a feat was not yet sufficiently developed. (2)

The premises of Carriage Discreteness are to be sought not so much in an interest in technology as in a desire to demystify movement, particularly by making use of objects and by bringing professional performers together with non-professionals. In Room Service, performed in 1964 in Philadelphia, two dancers carried around a mattress, an object that would become a leitmotiv in Rainer’s future dance pieces: There was, she said, “something ludicrous and satisfying about lugging that bulking object around, removing it from the scene and re-introducing it. No stylisation needed. It seemed to be so self-contained an act as to require no artistic tampering or justification.” (3) Objects gave rise to specific efforts and movements in accordance with their size and weight. Just as important as the dancers, they were one of the potential paths to the “neutral doer” (4) that Rainer was seeking.

The juxtaposition of two different continuities is another leitmotiv in Rainer’s choreography, and one owing to the influence of John Cage. Thus, in Terrain (1963), movement is envisioned apart from the stories spoken by the dancers. The same concern can be found again in Carriage Discreteness, where the pre-programmed events are not correlated in any way with the dancers’ movements. In this case, it was the program that exerted a step-by-step control over one of the two continuities.

Clarisse Bardiot © 2006 FDL

(1) Premiered on January 30, 1964, as part of the Judson Dance Theater’s Concert for New Paltz, State University College, New Paltz, N.Y. At My Body’s House was performed again on February 10 and 17, and on March 2 and 9, 1964, at the Surplus Dance Theater.

(2) Yvonne Rainer, in an interview with Clarisse Bardiot, August 2005, N.Y.

(3) Yvonne Rainer, “Some retrospective notes on a dance for 10 people and 12 mattresses called ‘Parts of Some Sextets,’ performed at the Wadsworth Athneum, Hartford, Connecticut, and the Judson Memorial Church, New York, in March, 1965,” The Drama Review, vol. 10, no. 2 (Winter 1965) p.168.

(4) Yvonne Rainer, “The Mind is a Muscle” in A Woman Who... (Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1999) p.33. Text written in 1966.