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The Brooklyn Rail

DEC 18-JAN 19

All Issues
DEC 18-JAN 19 Issue

I Love Judson

I’m sick of Judson. I brought it on myself. It will undoubtedly follow me for the rest of my Wikipedia career. That said, I’m sick of Judson also in the way a child is sick of his parents. “You make me sick!” we say when all else fails as if the illness of a child caused by the parent would be the parent’s absolute worst fate. Though, it’s not quite that.

I’m sick of Judson the way one is subtly embarrassed by one’s parents’ accomplishments in public. You know them so well and yet you can’t help wishing everyone would quit fawning over moms and pops, and just let them be there for you. I want them to be my peeps and not something for everyone watching. It used to feel that way somehow. For those of you like me who were introduced to Yvonne [Rainer] and Lucinda [Childs] first by Sally Banes’s Terpsichore in Sneakers or Michael Blackwood’s film Making Dance: Seven Post-Modern Choreographers, perhaps the big MoMA show has changed that irrevocably. And for that I am for sure glad and proud. It’s really important that this chapter of dance history be canonized by Mama MoMA. 

But now what? It’s important that subsequent shows follow the course set out by the MoMA exhibition and program and do their due diligence by making comprehensive and thorough future exhibitions that dig into this history and how it has influenced the last fifty years of contemporary dance.

How did Judson influence the French Conceptual Movement—and all the awfully termed “non-dance“ that sprung up in the mid ’90s and until now? Also, what do we make of the institutionalization of Trisha Brown versus the semi- and anti-institutionalization of her Judson buddies? Also, was or was not Judson forgotten in the ’80s: what was going on in dance in New York City in the ’80s or in Downtown Dance in the ’80s depending on your theoretical perspective? Not to mention, shall we have a look at Queer Silencing Written on the Neutral Body behind the veneer of Abstraction, of Movement for Movement’s Sake, and the Fear of McCarthy? And what about the number of women and people of color who were working in relation to Judson when rent was cheap but art parties in lofts below Houston still were not very racially integrated? 

Twyla Tharp is already setting part of the record straight with her recent show at the Joyce Theater, which shows her early work in minimalism; and I believe she was also rehearsing in the Judson gym during that time. And of course, shouldn’t we look at those of us who were the inheritors of the postmodern dance legacy but who, circa 2004 – 2012, used the postmodern ledge and nevertheless in the twenty-teens narrowly crawled our way out of conceptual dance? Let’s say, for starters…

That said, I’m waiting until December to take my time and visit the exhibit. It was way too crowded when I tried to go on a September Friday and also on an October Saturday. Yeah, moms and dads, good for you. Now, let’s keep it moving.


Trajal Harrell

between 2009 ? 2017 created a series of eight works together entitled Twenty Looks or Paris is Burning at The Judson Church: The Series. These works, alongside more recent works, continue to be shown internationally in theaters, performance festivals, and museums.


The Brooklyn Rail

DEC 18-JAN 19

All Issues