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What would have happened if in the early 1960’s the postmodern dancers of the Judson Church in New York’s West Village had travelled up to visit the ballrooms of Harlem, the home of voguing? This is the challenging question that New York choreographer Trajal Harell poses in this dance performance. He answers not with a historical reconstruction, but with a contemporary confrontation between these two very different styles which emerged in the same city around the same time. Together with two other dancers, Harrell creates a fascinating dialogue between the improvising, non-theatrical school of postmodern dance and the exuberant, stylized movements of voguing. An encounter which, 50 years on, offers exciting new possibilities.
‘Restraint and minimalism can be just as sexy and intriguing as vivacity and flair. Combined, they present a seduction impossible to resist.’The New York Times
Trajal Harrell is a New York-based choreographer working internationally between Europe, Asia, North and South America.
His training in dance has taken place in famous institutions like The
Trisha Brown School, Centre National de la Danse (with Yvonne Rainer) Paris, The City College of San Francisco, and The Martha Graham School of Contemporary of Dance. His first full-evening length work premiered at Danspace Project in 2004. Four years later his Quartet for the End of Time (music by Olivier Messiaen) was chosen by Time Out New York Magazine as one of the best dances of 2008.
Meanwhile he explored the Voguing ballroom scene: the sensual style of dance inspired by fashion poses developed in the Harlem ballrooms by African Americans and Latino Americans in the early 1980s. He subsequently studied voguing and whacking with master teachers Archie Burnett and Lasseindra Ninja. The result of this exploration was a body of works entitled Twenty Looks or Paris is Burning at The Judson Church. Judson Church was the location of the informal group of avant garde experimentalist dancers (Trisha Brown, Lucinda Childs, Steve Paxton and many others) that invented the precepts of Postmodern dance, and the series re-imagines a meeting between this early postmodern dance and the voguing dance tradition. The six works in this series were created in different sizes. The first part premiered in 2009 in the New Museum in New York and was considered one of the best pieces of the year. (M)imosa, the medium in the series was co-authored with Cecilia Bengolea, Francois Chaignaud, and Marlene Freitas. Antigone Sr., the large in the series, won the 2012 Bessie Award for Best Production. Twenty Looks….. (XS) premiered in 2011 in The Kitchen in New York, and Twenty Looks…. (JR) in the Ménagerie de Verre in Paris. In Fall 2012, Harrell premiered the last work in this series, Judson Church is Ringing in Harlem (Made-to-Measure)/Twenty Looks or Paris is Burning at The Judson Church (M2M). It was staged in Performance Space 1 (PS1) in Brooklyn and other venues.
While the inclusion of dance in visual arts has recently become quite popular, Harrell has always presented his work at museums and galleries while solidly maintaining his footing in the dance world. With performances at traditional dance venues and acclaimed projects in dance research and curating, Harrell has long been an ambassador of contemporary dance. In New York and the U.S., Harrell's work has been seen at dance/performance spaces such as New York Live Arts, The Kitchen, Danspace Project, Dance Theater Workshop (‘DTW’), Performance Space 122 (‘PS122’) and at colleges/universities. Internationally, his work has appeared in countless major festivals. Among visual arts institutions, Harrell's work has been seen at ICA Boston, Performa Biennial, Third Streaming Gallery, The New Museum of Contemporary Art, The Bronx Museum of the Arts and Art Basel-Miami Beach.
In 2013, Harrell presented work at The Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) and MoMA PS1. He is the first choreographer who is commissioned by MoMA PS1's Associate Curator of Performance Jenny Schlenzka for new work.
Currently Harrell is working on a new body of work called Performing Histories: Live Artworks Examining the Past, in which he examines butoh dance (the Japanese dance style in which the body is the expression of the tormented soul) from the theoretical praxis of voguing. The first work in this series was Used, Abused, and Hung Out to Dry, which premiered at The Museum of Modern Art- MoMA in February 2013.
- Trajal Harrell
- Trajal Harrell, Thibault Lac, Ondrej Vidlar
- costume design
- sound design
- Trajal Harrell
- international distribution & production
- Key Performance
- Tanz im August, Danspace Project for Platform 2012: [email protected], MoMA PS1, HAU Hebbel am Ufer
- commissioned by
- MoMA’s Wallis Annenberg Fund for Innovation in Contemporary Art through the Annenberg Foundation and by ‘Danspace Project’s 2012–2013. Commissioning Initiative, which receives major support from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation