Robert Rauschenberg. Pelican. 1963
Leah Dickerman: Rauschenberg has become well known for the sets and costumes that he developed for Merce Cunningham's productions and for Trisha Brown's productions later on. But it's not as well known that Rauschenberg himself was a choreographer. Pelican, in the video that you see here, was the first of the works that he choreographed. He looked for a space for the event and secured a roller skating rink. He took his cue from the venue, and he asked his dancers to perform on roller skates.
Here is dancer Alex Hay talking about performing the work:
Alex Hay: I did Pelican with Bob. He asked me if I would do the skating. Well, I hadn’t skated in years and years and years, but you don’t forget it, and I guess Bob was the same way. It was sort of like a scary piece to do because we had these big cargo chutes that were extended on steel rods, and we had backpacks. The problem was when we had to circle around Carolyn Brown and not engage these two cargo chutes. I guess they were about 8 feet wide, extended. But we managed quite well. We didn’t collide or fall down or anything like that. I guess that was good.