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Steve Paxton

(b. 1939)


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(b Phoenix, Ariz., 21 Jan. 1939)

US dancer and choreographer. Pioneer of Contact Improvisation. He trained as a gymnast and then studied modern dance with Cunningham and Robert Dunn in New York (from 1958). He joined José Limón's company for a year (1959) and was with Cunningham's company (1961–4). He also worked with Yvonne Rainer, Robert Rauschenberg, Lucinda Childs, and Trisha Brown. He was in the first performance of Rainer's groundbreaking Trio A in 1966. He was one of the founder-members of the Judson Dance Theater in 1962, and a founding member of the improvisational Grand Union in 1970. Like his Judson colleagues, his choreography incorporated everyday movements: his 1967 work Satisfyin' Lover, for example, had performers simply walking across the floor. His 1971 work Collaboration with Wintersoldier had two upside-down performers watching a film made by Vietnam veterans who opposed the war. In the early 1970s his work led him to develop Contact Improvisation, a system of improvised movement based on the intimate communication and contact between two moving bodies. The technique used the free flowing weight and momentum of the performers' bodies to generate movement and was widely adapted by many choreographers of contemporary dance. During the 1980s Paxton performed less frequently, his works often solos and highly improvised. A list of his creations includes Proxy (1962), Transit (1962), Afternoon (1963), Rialto (1964), Flat (1964), Jag Ville Gorna Telefonera (1964), Physical Things (1966), Backwater: Twosome (1977), Suspect Terrain (with Laurie Booth, Dana Reitz, and Polly Motley; mus. Hans-Peter Kuhn, 1989), Some English Suites (mus. Bach, 1993), Long and Dream (with Trisha Brown, 1994), Excavations Continued (1996), and Ash (1997). He continues to lead workshops in Contact Improvisation.

Subjects: Dance.


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