This past spring, the Charles Weidman Dance Foundation had the pleasure of supplying video footage of Charles Weidman’s Lynchtown to the Centre National de Danse Contemporaine (CNDC) in Angers, France. The video footage was included in the Dance is a Weapon NDG 1932/1955 exhibit in the lobby of the Le Quai performance space from May 16 to June 17 and was free to the public. Julia Jurgilewicz, Charles Weidman Dance Foundation’s administrative assistant, and Weidman Dance alumna Claire Westby, happened to be performing at Le Quai on May 19th with Liz Gerring Dance Company and were able to stop by the exhibit. Julia recounts her tour experience, from exploring the Loire valley to taking Cunningham class at the CNDC with Robert Swinston, and visiting the Dance is a Weapon exhibit:
Getting to Angers, France was an adventure in itself. I was able to dust off my French to change some of the dancers’ train tickets to stay in Paris for a few hours. We locked up our bags at the station, then walked along the Seine river, saw the Eiffel Tower, and got a delicious Parisian breakfast. The train to Angers yielded picturesque views of French countryside chock-full of roaming cows, ancient stone houses, and rolling hills.
Angers itself is a quaint town complete with the glorious Cathédrale d’Angers, the sturdy 13th century Château Angers, and the steady Maine river which clips the town in two. We were fortunate enough to have the first few days off to explore the Loire valley. We took a long van ride through ancient villages to the town of Saumur where we saw the fantastical Château de Saumur and explored and ate lunch at the sprawling Château Villandry.
So far this trip sounds more like a fairy tale than the sometimes grueling, hard work of a dance company’s tour, but we were not without our sweaty rehearsals and long soaks in baths. Liz Gerring Dance Company is an extremely athletic company that allows its dancers to focus on strength and endurance. The company explores non-narrative movement derived from pedestrian gesture and athletic training. The hour-long work we were performing in Angers, Horizon, is a feat of of just that, or as Robert Johnson of New Jersey Arts put it, Horizon “is a dance for heroes.”
Before rehearsals, we had the pleasure of taking Cunningham class from Robert Swinston alongside his company’s dancers. Swinston was appointed the artistic director of the CNDC Angers in 2013, where he teaches Cunningham class, re-stages Cunningham’s dances, and creates his own works. Liz Gerring Dance Company and Swinston’s company were able to show-and-tell their dances in the studio and hang out after rehearsals to compare living and dancing in Paris and NYC. I had a great time practicing my French with these dancers and seeing the juxtaposition of Cunningham and Liz Gerring’s work.
The performance of Horizon took place at Le Quai, an amazing arts space along the Maine River. The center seeks to include dance, theater, opera, world music, and more. The facilities are a treat compared to the often cramped dressing rooms of NYC theaters and there is a great restaurant on the roof of the building. Le Quai is also a hip hang out space for the community; our first day there a skateboard and tattoo festival was going on out front.
After the performance, I had some time to check out the Dance is a Weapon exhibit in the lobby of the building. It was a great exhibition with audio/video media, iconic photos, and colorful information banners. I was excited to see pictures of Charles Weidman and Martha Graham among other modern dance pioneers. Between the exhibit about early American modern dance in a home that features Cunningham’s legacy, and performing work by the next generation of contemporary choreographers, I had an array of dance influences melding to create an amazing experience.
In Liz Gerring’s Horizon, the dancers explore non-narrative, athletic movement to an original soundtrack by Michael Schumacher and set by Robert Wierzel. The collaborative nature of the work is reminiscent of Merce Cunningham’s creations that often incorporated multiple artists, from sound designers like John Cage to visual artists like Andy Warhol. The movement is both contemporary and inclusive of codified modern dance techniques. The NYTimes describes the work as “fluently combin[ing] modern technique with a postmodern and quasi-analytical scrutiny of pedestrians and athletes.” The dancers use similar theories from Weidman technique including fall and recovery, flattening and curving of the spine, and released and suspended movements. At the close of Horizon, I do a series of repeated falls across the stage reminiscent of the falls in Weidman’s Brahms Waltzes.
Doris Humphrey and Charles Weidman were interested in how gravity and momentum affected movement, an idea that is explored in rehearsal for Liz Gerring Dance Company. All affectation is stripped away, and we are asked to fall, throw, lunge, run, and jump honestly. While ballet and modern techniques are inherent in our bodies, the movements are results of gravity working for or against us and how much momentum we are allotted. Sometimes we are asked to spring from one shape to the next without “winding up”, or conversely, we are asked to gather all of our energy and hurtle across the space. This cause and effect theory is intrinsic in Weidman’s “kinetic pantomime”, though he played with the order and explored reversing these properties under a narrative context.
When I was studying for my Bachelors of Fine Arts degree at NYU, I had the pleasure of performing Weidman’s Easter Oratorio and Brahms Waltzes. A great lesson I took from learning these works was the importance of timing and duration of movement. A lot of attention was placed on how long a développé or suspension took or how still we were while holding a position. Liz Gerring’s work Horizon is centered around the duration of movement and the sustaining of shapes. Often times the music is adjusted live to our performance of the work as each movement and section can vary slightly in timing. While Weidman used these methods to convey an idea or feeling, Horizon uses timing and duration to give the audience an experience similar to a natural time lapse film- abstract, evolving, and surprising.
* For more detailed information on the characteristics of Humphrey-Weidman technique, see “A Reaffirmation of the Humphrey-Weidman Quality” by Svea Becker and Joenine Roberts, 1983, Dance Notation Journal vol 1 no 1 (available on the internet at the Dance Notation Bureau Theory Bulletin Board).
The end of our tour included a train ride back to Paris where the company parted ways, some for the States and some for more Parisian nights. I was able to do some traveling through Paris, Barcelona, and Madrid. Now all back in NYC, the Liz Gerring Dance Company is now gearing up for the premier of their new work (T)here to (T)here at Baryshnikov Arts Center November 10-12th, 2016.
Visualization or From a Farm in New Jersey
Robert Kosinski has shared some wonderful photos of Charles
Weidman’s last composition, Visualization or from a Farm in New Jersey.
dance to Ruth St. Denis. It premiered a year before Weidman’s death.
Part One is an eleven minute solo created for Janet Towner, tracing the
transformation of the cavorting farm girl, Ruthie Dennis, into the sublime
Ruth St. Denis.
romps on the farm, her explorations of rippling arm movements, her playing
with fabric on a clothes line to create a saree, and includes two early solos
from her East Indian Series: The Yogi and Incense.
Ruth’s Greek Veil Plastique and Nautch, Shawn’s Gnossienne, Japanese
Spear Dance, and Dance of Shiva, Humphrey’s first choreography for
Denishawn Valse Caprice also known as Scarf Dance, Martha Graham in Shawn’s
Serenata Morisca, Charles Weidman in Shawn’s Danse Americaine and
Crapshooter. Part Two concludes with The Garden of Kama, the first
From the President, Board of Directors
It is with sadness that I tell you Tom McNally – friend, musician, dancer, teacher, colleague, and member of the Board of Directors died Saturday May 23, 2015. Tom was 103 years old.
Early on in his life Tom developed a passion for music and dance. He told us about how as a young man he found his way to the Denishawn compound in the Bronx, but not having the nerve to go in, threw himself on the ground. Tom became a part of the first generation of American modern dancers to step forward on their own in Bennington, Vermont during the mid-nineteen twenties. He became a studio musician and accompanist for many of the founders of American modern dance, Doris Humphrey, Charles Weidman, Martha Graham, Erick Hawkins, Jose Limon, and May O’Donnell. Tom continued as accompanist and performed with the Humphrey-Weidman group in the 1930s including Humphrey’s La Valse. He told us about going to the Humphrey-Weidman studio on the top floor of a factory building in Manhattan, and once, when he played for one of Martha Graham’s classes, he complimented her on her fine teaching – she took it as an insult and said she was a performer, not a teacher. Tom was the longest serving member of the Charles Weidman Dance Foundation Board of Directors, and was involved in the production of our award-winning documentary Charles Weidman: On His Own in 1990 and the CWDF’s presentation of our Humphrey-Weidman Gala at The Sylvia and Danny Kaye Playhouse at Hunter College in New York City in 1994. He was an avid theatergoer for music and dance and still attended performances into his 100s. Tom was a great raconteur who loved to tell stories about the early Bennington years and all the luminaries from that period of modern dance in America. He had a wonderful delivery and style, and during our board meetings he would often have us listening and laughing as he recounted all sorts of anecdotes about those early years.
In recent years Tom taught music at LaGuardia Community College and the Brooklyn School of Music, played organ at Lower East Side Trinity Church, and sung with Collegiate Chorale. He attended all our productions of performances of Charles Weidman’s work including: Easter Oratorio performed in New York City at the 92nd Street Y Legacy Series in 2010; Brahms Waltzes and Lynchtown performed in 2011 at the 92nd Street Y for the 110th anniversary of Charles Weidman’s birth, the 75th anniversary of Lynchtown, and the 50th anniversary of Brahms Waltzes. He was a tireless supporter in his dedication to the legacy of Charles Weidman and The Charles Weidman Dance Foundation. We miss him very much.
The Charles Weidman Dance Foundation, Inc.
The Charles Weidman Dance Foundation would like to invite all who knew Tom to send us your remembrances of him, whether through music and dance or not, which we will post on our website, Facebook page, and blog. We want to do this to pay tribute to his dedication to Charles Weidman and the Charles Weidman Dance Foundation and to celebrate his long life. Send your remembrances to: firstname.lastname@example.org or to our mailing address.
“A portrait of a community consumed by violent passions.”– Jack Anderson, NYTimes, 1985.
On April 28, 2014, Minerva Tapia Dance Group from Tijuana presented a concert as part of Jean Isaacs’ San Diego Dance Theater‘s Live Arts Festival at the White Box Theater. The dance group performed Charles Weidman’s Lynchtown, staged and directed by Weidman alumnus, George Willis. Mr. Willis was eighteen when he started dancing with Charles Weidman in California, first in Hermosa Beach and then Hollywood. He came into modern dance as a body builder and after his first class, he was “hooked.” Mr. Willis trained with Weidman for three years on scholarship until Weidman returned to the east coast. During that time, he performed Weidman’s Lynchtown, Fables for our Time, Flickers, and The War Between Men and Women.
Just ten days before the Live Arts Festival performance in California, Lynchtown was performed here on the east coast in New York City. The Charles Weidman Dance Foundation hosted Preservation of the Charles Weidman Moving Image Archive, a fundraiser for their project with the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts. New Jersey based contemporary dance company, Nimbus Dance Works, performed Lynchtown at the event, staged by Margaret O’Sullivan and Samuel Pott.
The Charles Weidman Dance Foundation is thrilled that Weidman’s Lynchtown is being learned and performed across America and around the world! Lynchtown, the third dance in the Atavisms suite, was first performed in 1936 and depicts a lynching that Weidman witnessed as a child. It deals with problems of racism, mob mentality, and injustice that are still widely relevant today. We at the Foundation hope that Lynchtown will continue to be studied and performed in universities, schools, and by professional companies around the world for years to come.
Post by Julia Jurgilewicz.
From the President, Board of Directors
It is with great sadness and a broken heart that I tell you Margaret O’Sullivan – dear friend, mother, grandmother, dancer, teacher, colleague, and Co-president of the Board of Directors died Tuesday October 21, 2014. The cause was cancer.
Margaret was a member of the last generation of dancers to dance with Charles Weidman in his theater dance company in the 1970’s. She appeared in Mr. Weidman’s works including the Christmas and Easter Oratorios, Lynchtown, Brahms Waltzes, Opus 51 Opening Dance, Bargain Counter, the Thurber Fables, The War Between the Men and the Women, and others. Margaret was a member of the CWDF Board of Directors since 1989 and was involved in the production of our award-winning documentary Charles Weidman: On His Own. She also participated in The Charles Weidman Dance Foundation’s presentation of our Humphrey-Weidman Gala at The Sylvia and Danny Kaye Playhouse at Hunter College in New York in 1994. Later Margaret was instrumental in arranging, staging, coaching, and teaching Mr. Weidman’s works in our educational outreach initiative at several institutions including New York University, Montclair State University, and the José Limón- Professional Dance Program. With Janet Towner she staged excerpts from the Easter Oratorio at NYU that was performed in at the 92nd Street Y Legacy Series in 2010. In 2011 Margaret staged Brahms Waltzes at NYU while coaching MSU students in Lynchtown. Both dances were performed at the 92nd Street Y for the 110th anniversary of Charles Weidman’s birth, the 75th anniversary of Lynchtown and the 50th anniversary of Brahms Waltzes. Margaret staged Lynchtown for Nimbus Dance Works, which was performed at the Alvin Ailey Theater in 2012 and all over the Northeast for Nimbus’ Lynchtown/Thistown Project in 2013. She had been tireless in her dedication to the legacy of Charles Weidman and The Charles Weidman Dance Foundation. We will miss her dearly.
I want to express how heart broken I feel as a result of the loss of my dear friend and colleague. Margaret and I were not only members of the CWDF board, we were members of Charles Weidman’s Theater Dance Company and performed together at the Expression of Two Arts Theater on West 29th Street in New York City. We would often reminisce about the Sunday night performances Charles gave 52 weeks a year. Margaret and I “starred” as Mary and Joseph in the Christmas Oratorio. During the recitative describing their plight in Bethlehem looking for a room, there would be a pause in the dancing. Then Margaret and I would make our way, on our knees, around the perimeter of the stage miming a knock on the door of the inns – then being turned away by the innkeeper. Sometimes, with our backs to the audience, we would kibitz with each other while
making our way from inn to inn. After each performance Charles would always invite us back to his living quarters in the back of the studio where we would talk about the performance and the audience reaction and any flubs we made during the performance – Charles spotted everything. We worked hard in class and during rehearsals, but those Sunday night performances were worth all the sweat and hard work. Margaret always remembered them fondly. She liked to tell the story of her first visit to Charles’ studio. On her first day she arrived a little early and climbed the stairs to the second floor. She knocked on the door and was flabbergasted when Charles himself opened the door and welcomed her in. After introductions, Charles showed her the “dressing” room, which was a small alcove near the front door separated from the studio by a white sheet – the men and women dressing rooms were separated by another sheet. A few more words were exchanged and as Charles headed back to the living quarters he turned to Margaret and said “And by the way, you’re very pretty!” And so shall she remain to me.
The Charles Weidman Dance Foundation, Inc.
The Charles Weidman Dance Foundation would like to invite all who knew Margaret to send us your remembrances of her, whether through dance or not, which we will post on our website, Facebook page, and blog. We want to do this to pay tribute to her dedication to Charles Weidman and the Charles Weidman Dance Foundation and
to celebrate her life. Send your remembrances to: email@example.com or to our mailing address.
On April 18th, 2014, The Charles Weidman Dance Foundation held their fundraising event, Preservation of the Charles Weidman Moving Image Archive. The goal of the Preservation Project is to raise enough money to fully preserve and digitize the Weidman archive of film and video in the Jerome Robbins Archive Division at the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts.
The fundraiser included two beautifully danced Weidman works. Nimbus Dance Works from Jersey City performed Lynchtown. The dancers were extremely technical and passionate and started off the night’s events with a bang! Foundation President of the Board, Robert Kosinski, said it was one of the best performances of Lynchtown he had ever seen!
Attendees at the fundraiser also had the privilege to see Weidman’s trio Branches from the Easter Oratorio performed by Phoebe Rose Sandford, Sarah Hillmon, and Julia Jurgilewicz, all three Weidman alumni and members of RedCurrant Collective. Julia Jurgilewicz staged this work from the video footage of a performance from 2010 by Tisch School of the Arts, NYU dancers at the 92nd St Y. The Foundation’s vice-president, Margaret O’Sullivan, helped the dancers with details and intention. The dancers were graceful yet strong, and concluded the night’s performances with everyone looking forward to spring!
The Foundation was pleased to have such wonderful dancers performing these iconic Weidman works. Dancer Sarah Hillmon performed for the Foundation at the 92nd St Y and Baryshnikov Arts Center in excerpts of the Easter Oratorio in her first year of her undergraduate degree at Tisch, NYU. She had the fun job of relearning her part for the fundraiser that she performed four years ago in the Branches trio. She remarked how different parts were harder or easier with her new body than when she was a dance student and how special it is to be able to revisit a part after years of different trainings and performances. Today, Sarah dances with Lucinda Childs Dance, touring often to Europe, Australia, and Asia, and has even graced the stage of BAM in Child’s Einstein on the Beach. Sarah also dances with Suzanne Beahrs Dance and is a founding member of RedCurrant Collective. Sarah is looking forward to touring to China this May.
Phoebe Rose Sandford was new to Branches and did an incredible job of picking up the choreography in just three rehearsals! Phoebe performed Weidman’s Brahm’s Waltzes in 2012 at the 92nd St Y in her second year of her undergraduate degree at Tisch, NYU. Phoebe was excited to revisit Weidman technique as it was a good reminder of her ballet days as a student, but now she was able to apply her modern training and experience. Phoebe is a certified MBD yoga teacher at The Perri Institute for Mind and Body, and she also teaches dance at Cynthia King Dance Studio. She is a founding member of RedCurrant Collective, and in addition to dancing and choreographing for her collective, she dances for Anne Zuerner and mishiDance. The Foundation was so pleased to have her dance for us again!
Julia Jurgilewicz performed both the Easter Oratorio and the Brahm’s Waltzes while in her undergraduate program at Tisch, NYU. Julia had an interesting situation with Branches where she had learned the part of Sarah Hillmon back in 2010 and then learned a different role for the fundraiser. Julia remarked that “it was like a fun puzzle, fitting together the ensemble parts that I remembered from four years ago and my new solo moments.” She enjoyed performing the work with her deeper understanding of movement and appreciated the opportunity to see how much had changed in her dancing in four years. Julia has performed in three productions at the Metropolitan Opera and dances for Suzanne Beahrs Dance, Bodystories:Teresa Fellion Dance, and Erica Essner Performance Co-Op. When she is not dancing, Julia works for Ballet Tech bringing free ballet training to public school students in the five boroughs. She is looking forward to dancing in Bulgaria this June and creating her own work through RedCurrant Collective to be presented in the fall.
The Charles Weidman Dance Foundation is lucky to have such wonderful dancers donating their time, skill, and passion to keeping Charles Weidman’s legacy alive and is pleased that the Foundation’s relationship with Tisch Dance has flourished with continued collaborations. The Foundation looks forward to hopefully staging more Weidman works on the world’s talented dancers and students. To find out more about the Foundation’s missions and goals, visit our website at www.charlesweidman.org.
Post by Julia Jurgilewicz
We know you have been itching to read more of our Carry on… newsletters. The wait is over! Here are four more gems of Weidman history for you! Enjoy Carry on… from 1992-1995 the original way enthusiasts kept up to date on Weidman happenings!
Announcing the completion of Jonette Lancos’s thesis entitled The Movement Style and Technique of Charles Weidman and a two week summer intensive in Weidman technique!
Carol Mezzacappa reflects on her incredible journey to Taiwan with SUNY Purchase dancers to teach Taiwanese dance students Weidman’s Lynchtown. They formed an intimidating and beautiful cast and performed Lynchtown at the Taipei International Festival of Dance Academies.
Announcing the Humphrey-Weidman Gala held on Sunday May 1st, 1994 at Hunter College. The amazing program featured Weidman’s Submerged Cathedral, On My Mother’s Side and David and Goliath as well as Humphrey’s Life of the Bee and The Shakers, to name just a few.
Featuring reviews from Dance View and Back Stage on the Humphrey-Weidman Gala of 1994 with one opening line stating that the show was “one of the most important programs seen this season- or, for that matter- in recent years” (Jennie Schulman, Back Stage)! I’d say that’s a five star review!