Introduction
In the summer of 1962, a group of young choreographers decided to pre-
sent a concert of works they had made for Robert Dunn's choreography
class, taught from 1960 through 1962 at Merce Cunningham's studio in the
Living Theater building. These choreographers were not all dancers by
training; their numbers included visual artists and musicians. Dunn himself
had studied music theory with John Cage, the avant-garde composer and
Cunningham's collaborator, at the New School for Social Research.
In looking for a place to show their experimental work in a profes-
sional concert format, the group found a welcome at Judson Memorial
Church, a liberal Protestant congregation that was housed on the south
end of Washington Square in Greenwich Village. There the ministry and
parishioners had long been active in reform politics, civil rights, and arts
activities. Already the site of Happenings, the Judson Poets' Theater, film
screenings, and the Judson Gallery, where exhibitions of Pop Art and
political art were held, the Judson Church soon also became the center for
avant-garde dance in the city.
A Concert of Dance #1 was open to the public free of charge.
It
lasted
for several hours, with twenty-three dances on the program by fourteen
choreographers. This concert, given on 6 July 1962, proved to be the begin-
ning of a historic process that changed the shape of dance history.
It
was
the seedbed for post-modern dance, the first avant-garde movement in
dance theater since the modern dance of the 1930s and 1940s. The choreog-
raphers of the Judson Dance Theater radically questioned dance aesthetics,
both in their dances and in their weekly discussions. They rejected the codi-
fication of both ballet and modern dance. They questioned the traditional
dance concert format and explored the nature of dance performance. They
also discovered a cooperative method for producing dance concerts. For
young artists who did not want to be judged by older authorities in the
field, or who wanted the freedom to experiment in a familiar space that
was easily accessible, this was an alternative to uptown juried concerts.
Attracting a grassroots audience of Greenwich Village artists and intellec-
tuals, the Judson Dance Theater affected the entire community and flour-
ished as a popular center of experimentation.
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