Judson Dance Theater


During the early 1960s, most independent modern dancers struggled to have their work showcased. However, as Sally Banes suggests in her book Greenwich Village 1963, the world of dance dramatically changed with the formation of the Judson Dance Theater. In her opinion, the theater was a "vital and highly visible collective that made its impact, not only on the dance world, but on the village art scene," as well.

The theater grew out of a dance composition class taught by Robert Dunn, a musician who had studied with John Cage. Unlike most dance troupes, the members of the Judson Dance Theater were both trained dancers, as well as, untrained visual artists, musicians, poets, and even filmmakers. On July 6, 1962 the theater company gave its first performance, Concert of Dance #1, at the Judson Church. For the next twenty years, the Judson Dance Theater would dominate postmodern dance.

Part of the success of the theater was due to the conscious effort of its artist to work collectively. As Judith Dunn, one dancer in the group wrote, "no important decisions were made until everyone concerned and present agreed." This, along with the toleration of artists from a variety of disciplines, contributed to the groups feeling of unity and community.

In my opinion, the Judson Dance Theater is extremely important to Greenwich Village for two reasons. First of all, unlike the other artistic happenings taking place within the village, Judson was dominated by women. Not only were they the majority in this group, but they enjoyed an equivalent status of men and created their own space. Secondly, the Judson Dance Theater seems to be the unifying art of Greenwich because its participants were artists from a variety of disciplines. As Sally Banes suggests, "the Judson Dance Theater became a metacommunity of sorts where the different communities revolving around single arts disciplines coalesced and where interdisciplinary imagination flourished.

Sarah Doran


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