The Choreographers’ Scores: 2020

Curated by Kristy Edmunds, commissioned and published by UCLA’s Center for the Art of Performance in partnership with Pomegranate Arts, Lapis Press and YoungArts.

In the spring of 2020 during the early throes of the coronavirus pandemic, all dance and live performances were halted throughout the United States and much of the world. The impact to the livelihoods of dancers and choreographers was immediate and long-lasting.

The Choreographers’ Scores: 2020 was conceived and curated by Kristy Edmunds, director of MASS MoCA and artistic advisor at CAP UCLA as a collaboration with 26 US-based choreographers to create a handmade score to be editioned as fine art prints. Each artist received a commission to contribute a score in visual time, and to do so from wherever they were sheltering throughout the summer of 2020.

Among the 26 acclaimed choreographers whose works feature in the exhibition are YoungArts award winners Caleb Teicher (2011 Dance), Camille A. Brown (1997 Dance & U.S. Presidential Scholar in the Arts) and Shamel Pitts (2003 Dance), and YoungArts guest artists and mentors such as Ann CarlsonKyle AbrahamNora Chipaumire and Rosie Herrera.

The resulting edition is a rare collection of works on paper that reveal the unique and intimate explorations of these artists, and insights to their choreographic ideas while awaiting their return to the studios and stages.

Exhibition of Works

Zoe Scofield
Created in Phoenix and Seattle
July – August 2020

I was sent a copy of Beethoven’s original score for Op. 132 quartet, the third movement. He was already deaf when he wrote this and died a few years later. I was taken aback and moved by the physical and visual beauty of the score itself. I can’t read music, however, when I was younger I would ‘write’ music for my father to play on the piano based on the overall shape of the notes on the page. I had a very clear idea of how both the individual shapes and total composition should sound and couldn’t understand why they didn’t translate into the music I was seeing and hearing. I was reminded of the feeling of seeing and hearing movement when looking at the notes on the page. So I decided to begin by listening to his late quartets, sitting with the printed score and allowing the notes to turn into movement—to read the notes, the timing, the pace, tempo and quality through his hand and physicalize it. I traced his notes with my fingers, found shapes in their arrangements and saw dancers, stage, space and time. It began to feel like a duet with Beethoven, a re-animation of him not just through his music, but alongside the movement of his hand across the page as it made physical the sounds in his head that he could no longer hear. Starting with Beethoven’s musical score is a new process for me. This is the first time I’ve worked with a musical score as a sort of map, movement notation and hieroglyphics, creating a work between two artists across time.

 

Camille A. Brown (1997 YoungArts Winner in Dance & U.S. Presidential Scholar in the Arts)
Created in Jamaica, Queens, NY
May 2020

“Ink” celebrates the rituals, gestural vocabulary and traditions that remain ingrained within the lineage of the African diaspora and reclaims African-American narratives by showcasing their authenticity. The work examines the culture of Black life that is often appropriated, rewritten or silenced. This score depicts some of the sections in the work. The placement of the dancers and musicians are highlighted. I also listed some thoughts connected to developing the storyline for each section.

 

Lucinda Childs
Created in Hudson, NY
August 17, 2020

This drawing explores the mapping of my choreography, with the same tools I’ve always used over the years, in pen and pencil and with the same geometrical imagery. Since the element of time was eliminated, I could look at the parts of a dance in one glance from an overhead view to explore options for variation. I normally use color to identify each dancer’s path in space.

 

Jawole Willa Jo Zollar with Vincent Thomas, Chanon Judson & Ausar Johnson
Created in Brooklyn, NY
June 2020

The piece is a visual character score of an upcoming opera with Jake Heggie and Gene Scheer. I was thinking of the main characters visually and through the cosmogram of the Kongo people called “Four moments of the sun.” The living and the dead exist in conversation and relationship to one another.

 

Nora Chipaurmire
YoungArts Guest Teacher

 

Eiko Otake
Created in Green-Wood Cemetery, Brooklyn, NY
September 26, 2020

While creating a solo piece to perform in the Green-Wood Cemetery, two graves reminded me of a short story written by my friend and atomic bomb survivor Kyoko Hayashi. I wrote in the program note: “Facing away from the burnt field of N City in the autumn wind, the grave markers of the two girls were surrounded by many grave markers. They stood side-by-side in the breeze.” —Kyoko Hayashi “Two Grave Markers” 

 

Rosie Herrera
YoungArts Guest Teacher
Created in Miami Beach, FL
June – July 2020

These two scores were written for Loren Davidson and Leah Verier-Dunn at separate times during a period where we could not be together in person. I was deeply missing my friends and dreaming what my next work could be. I was searching for material that could capture the fragility I was feeling at that moment but still connecting to the themes of religious iconography that I have been researching over the past six years. The scores are placed on top of my actual communion veil, which was handed down to me from my two older sisters.

 

Shamel Pitts (2003 YoungArts Winner in Dance)
Created in Brooklyn, NY
May – August 2020

When Kristy Edmunds’ prompt entered my inbox during the pandemic and global protest/unrest due to the police murder of George Floyd, I was at first hesitant and thought ‘What is this?’ because it was so unusual. I was feeling halted and depleted by the moments prior, as well as with all of the cancellation emails coming in. Her email was so thoughtful, sensitively crafted, innovative and somehow mysterious. The Choreographers’ Scores: 2020 propelled me out of bed and pushed me forward into my purpose: Art. My score was inspired by the times. What kept coming up for me was the intersection between solitude, creativity and solidarity. This landed me at the word ‘still’ which as an adjective implies immobility and as an adverb, nevertheless. The second page of my score is one of the first pages towards the creation of my new performance duet entitled Touch of RED. On this page, you will see the beginning of some ideas; choreography prompts, concepts, environmental considerations and legend building. Writing has always been a part of my choreographic practice: the flow of ideas from body into materials (pen and paper) and back into body (choreography). In November, 2020, while I was at Jacob’s Pillow for Touch of RED’s creation the Doris Duke Theatre caught fire and was destroyed with all but two pages of my score burned. Here are the two that remain. I’m still scoring.

Caleb Teicher (2011 Dance) with Isabela Dos Santos (2011 Film & U.S. Presidential Scholar in the Arts)
Created in New York and Miami Beach, FL
August 2020

Taking inspiration from popular dance pamphlets of the early 1900s, this score encourages viewers to get moving. It’s allegorical: there are many ways to ‘make a move,’ and there are multiple avenues for ideas of creativity, embodiment and play to evolve. As Isabela Dos Santos’ footstep mapping grows in complexity, it’s up to the dancer as to how the directions are interpreted—even with instructions, the moves are up to the mover.

 

Alice Sheppard
Created in Palo Alto, CA
June – August 2020

It was the pandemic (it is still a pandemic). It was summer; America was supposedly reckoning with racial justice. At the start of the process, I was in my bedroom researching American lynching. By the end, the fires in Northern California were five miles away from my home; I was packing in preparation for evacuation. This image is two pages of a book.

 

Ann Carlson
YoungArts Guest Teacher
Created in Santa Monica, CA
Summer 2020

The ink-black lines, mini spirals and stops are re-drawn from a sketch I made in 1986; a spatial map that 12 women traversed in a dance entitled “Friends.” This very piece of paper, from 35 years ago, landed at my feet one day as I was thinking about this invitation to make a dance on paper; to contribute “A love letter to the future of dance.” The footprint is my then 65-year-old foot dipped in gold tempera standing on an 8 X 10” piece of paper in my bathroom during lockdown in 2020. The timestamp of the body, a memory seen anew, bears witness to an ever-present future state of aliveness.

 

Sarah Michelson
Created in New York, NY
Summer 2020

 

Wally Cardona
Created in Brooklyn, New York, and Irinjalakuda, Kerala, India
January – August 2020

This score holds the remnants of a collaboration between Wally Cardona (U.S.) and Kapila Venu (India), which began in India in January 2020 and ruptured two months later. “This dance is the last dance I will ever make. My last dance is the last dance I will ever make.” These declarations served as both realization and vow, while also supporting a formal mourning process: marking the end of something to begin again.

 

Kyle Abraham

YoungArts Guest Teacher

Faye Driscoll
Created in Los Angeles
July – August 2020

My faulty handwriting was a dance partner for me. A tying of the thread from my own body’s craving (and starvation for) other bodies. The act of writing continuously by hand, without gaps or spaces, stepped into the great breach of the loss of touch. The text is also a literal choreographed score to be performed—one that proposes impossible togetherness.

 

Molissa Fenley
Created in New York
August 2020

Pipes Going Nowhere is a score that was created in response to pipes I found discarded on the land. The pipes are meant to be conduits, carrying something between here and there, and yet these were dysfunctional—attached to slabs of concrete and left as obsolete waste—yet could be imagined as sculpture. I thought to look through my journals and randomly find descriptive lines of choreography–lines as individual and separate instructions, not as a continuum. These lines had not been discarded but had not been acted upon. Recorded as separate thoughts and yet added together, they became a new form.

 

Brenda Way
Created in Oakland, CA
Summer 2020

I was taken by Richard Prum’s book, The Evolution of Beauty, and his discussion that, in the case of many species of birds, evolution was determined in great part by aesthetic choice rather than fitness for survival (think peacock) and this choice is made by the female of the species. It led me to think about the evolution of modern dance, the radical changing concepts of beauty and the role of female choreographers in the process.

Pam Tanowitz
Created in New York, NY
2020

A dance never made. A score created during the pandemic.

 

Ronald K. Brown
Created in Brooklyn, NY
March 2020

Okwui Okpokwasili
Created in Brooklyn, NY
Spring/Summer 2020

This score is both a trace from and prompt for a practice grounded in a slow walk while attempting to create improvisational communal songs that not only held melodic fragments but cries and shouts. This live practice came to an abrupt halt at the start of the pandemic. I tried to carry it in my body and to remember how to be with others in a creative, generous and loving way.

 

Elizabeth Streb
Created in New York, NY
September 2018 – September 2019

The choreography for every STREB piece is drawn within a template. This boundary serves as the borderline for the actions that are invented and always stay within it, not by choice but by necessity. The built structure itself becomes our ‘new’ ground and the actions never go beyond this unreasonable boundary. It’s a surrounding that is forever permanent and invisible at the same time. That is the reason the edges are immutable.

 

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