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Yvonne Rainer to perform two of her works at the American Dance Institute in Rockville

Unknown performance at Judson Memorial Church in 1963. (Al Giese/Courtesy of Fales Library and Special Collections)
Dance critic

In the 1960s, simple was radical. Performers who did nothing more than walk around onstage, or run around, were called revolutionary.

Choreographer Yvonne Rainer called it dance. With the Judson Dance Theater, a group that she and like-minded avant-gardists formed in New York’s Greenwich Village, Rainer put ordinary, everyday movement on display as art.

Sarah L. Kaufman received the 2010 Pulitzer Prize for Criticism. She is the author of THE ART OF GRACE: On Moving Well Through Life. She has been The Washington Post's dance critic since 1996, and what moves her most is seeing grace happen where she least expects it. Learn more at and Facebook SarahLKaufmanWriter View Archive

Her 1965 “No Manifesto” was a rallying cry for postmodern dance to reject what she saw as the excesses of ballet and other dance forms. “No to spectacle. No to virtuosity,” Rainer wrote. “No to transformations and magic and make-believe. . . . No to moving or being moved.”

Eventually, much of what Rainer helped promote became mainstream. Natural movement, household props, film, minimalist music: These and other once-radical ideas are commonplace in contemporary dance. But Rainer, 79, hasn’t stopped pushing boundaries.

On Friday and Saturday, she brings a group of dancers to Rockville’s American Dance Institute (ADI) to perform two of her recent works: “Assisted Living: Good Sports 2” (2011) and “Assisted Living: Do You Have Any Money?” (2013). The first sprang from sports photos she cut out of newspapers. In the second, the dancers recite texts by economist John Maynard Keynes, anarchist Emma Goldman and others.

Photograph of Yvonne Rainer’s “Parts of Some Sextets” at the Wadsworth Athenaeum, Hartford, Connecticut on March 23, 1965. (Peter Moore/© Barbara Moore/Licensed by VAGA, NY. Courtesy of Fales Library and Special Collections)

In conjunction with her visit, ADI and the Dance Heritage Coalition are presenting an exhibit in the ADI lobby on the history of Judson Dance Theater and the birth of postmodern dance. To which I say: Yes to being reminded of creative flamethrowers.

Yvonne Rainer

“Assisted Living: Good Sports 2” and “Assisted Living: Do You Have Any Money?” at 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday at American Dance Institute, 1570 E. Jefferson St., Rockville. 301-984-3003 or 866-811-4111 or visit



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