HELLZAPOPPIN’: What about the bees?, a new work by dance and film pioneer Yvonne Rainer (born 1934) will have its European premiere at the Staatliche Kunsthalle Baden-Baden on January 27, 2023.
American choreographer and filmmaker Yvonne Rainer is one of the most influential artistic figures of the last fifty years and a major innovator in several disciplines, from dance and cinema, to feminist theory and poetry. As a founding member of the Judson Dance Theatre in New York – an informal experimental collective that gave birth to postmodern dance in the 1960s – Rainer was one of the leaders of a generation that expanded the conventions of dance and performance by exploring the use of banal, everyday actions and tasks such as standing still, walking, and running.
HELLZAPOPPIN’: What about the bees? touches upon Rainer’s worlds of text, experimental film, and choreography.
Her 2002 video After Many a Summer Dies the Swan: Hybrid constitutes the first part of the show. It juxtaposes dance excerpts from After Many a Summer Dies the Swan – a work choreographed by Rainer for Mikhail Baryshnikov’s White Oak Dance Project that marked Rainer’s return to dance in 2000 – with texts by Austrian artists and thinkers such as Oskar Kokoschka, Adolf Loos, Arnold Schönberg, and Ludwig Wittgenstein. The 30-minute-long video delves into Vienna’s self-absorbed, dreamy, avant-garde modernism at the turn of the century and connects the far-right reality of today with its roots in early twentieth-century Europe.
The second part of the program is HELLZAPOPPIN’: What about the bees?, a piece for nine performers. Reflecting upon America’s ongoing struggle with systemic racism and in keeping with Rainer’s earlier performances, the new piece combines text, dance, and film excerpts from two classics – the 1941 Hollywood musical HELLZAPOPPIN’ and French auteur Jean Vigo’s 1993 short Zero for Conduct – as a backdrop and inspiration for its choreographic components.
Yvonne Rainer has announced that HELLZAPOPPIN’: What about the bees? is her “last dance.” It represents the culmination of sixty years of an oeuvre encompassing choreography, filmmaking, writing, and teaching – an iconic body of work that has had a transformative impact on several generations of artists across the world.
Following artist Jimmy Robert’s solo exhibition All dressed up and nowhere to go (on view through January 15, 2023), the Staatliche Kunsthalle Baden-Baden will continue its exploration of performative methods and works by focusing on Yvonne Rainer, whose approach to the body more as a source of an infinite variety of movements dovetails remarkably with the Kunsthalle’s program, its curatorial vision, and its reflections on feminist, queer, and critical perspectives of what it means to live and transform together. The presentation of Rainer’s latest work in Baden-Baden is thus a powerful statement on pressing issues, from systemic racism to social discrimination, that require courage if they are to be named and revealed.
HELLZAPOPPIN’ – What about the bees? was commissioned by Performa, Staatliche Kunsthalle Baden-Baden, and Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, with generous support from Sarah Arison and the Performa Commissioning Fund. It is presented in Europe by Staatliche Kunsthalle Baden-Baden alongside Performa. The performances in Baden-Baden are supported by the DAAD Artists-in-Berlin Program with funds from the Federal Foreign Office.
With the kind support of Festspielhaus und Festspiele Baden-Baden gGmbH.
Concept and direction: Yvonne Rainer, aided by research and inputs from the dancers. Assistant director: Pat Catterson. Performed by Emily Coates, Brittany Bailey, Brittany Engel-Adams, Patricia Hoffbauer, Vincent McCloskey, Emmanuèle Phuon, David Thomson, and Timothy Ward. Guest performer: Kathleen Chalfant.
Team Baden-Baden: Çağla Ilk, Elena Sinanina, Sandeep Sodhi, Elena Solovarova.
About Yvonne Rainer Born in 1934 in San Francisco, Yvonne Rainer moved in 1956 to New York City where she was introduced to modern dance at the Martha Graham School. She choreographed her first piece, Three Satie Spoons(1960-61), while attending a workshop at the Merce Cunningham Studio. Between 1962 and 1964, Rainer was a key member of the informal group known as the Judson Dance Theater along dancers and visual artists Trisha Brown, Robert Morris, Steve Paxton, and Robert Rauschenberg. There, she explored the use of banal, everyday actions in order to expand or challenge the conventions of dance. Her 1965 No Manifesto, urging for an anti-spectacular aesthetics, was epitomized in the most visible signature of her career, Trio A (1966). In 1970 Rainer formed The Grand Union with Brown and Paxton, along with Douglas Dunn and David Gordon. The collective explored spontaneity in dance and challenged conventional notions of authorship by foregrounding improvisation. At the same time, Rainer gradually transitioned to film. In her cinematographic work (seven feature films between 1972 and 1996), she played with disjunctions and montage, incorporating past dance performances, narrative content, texts, and photographs. In 2000, upon an invitation from Mikhail Baryshnikov, Rainer returned to dance. In her seven productions since then, Rainer has combined postures and movements from performance history, popular culture, sporting events, and politics to create fast-paced, witty, and thought-provoking dances.
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Image Credits: Yvonne Rainer, Hellzapoppin‘: What about the bees?. Photo: Maria Baranova. Courtesy Performa and New York Live Arts.
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