Trio A, a solo dance by Rainer, was initially performed in 1966 as a trio by Rainer and fellow New York choreographer-dancers David Gordon and Steve Paxton under the title The Mind is a Muscle, Part 1. At the premiere, at Manhattan’s Judson Memorial Church, the dancers each performed the same sequence of movements twice but not in unison, accompanied by the sound of wooden slats being thrown from the balcony one by one. Since then it has been presented in various forms, sometimes integrated into other pieces by Rainer or adapted and interpreted by other choreographers. This film depicts Rainer’s solo performance of the work in 1978, several years after she transitioned from choreography to filmmaking.
Trio A consists of a four-and-a-half-to-five-minute sequence of discrete movements that, with the exception of walking, are never repeated. Although it appears effortless, the dance is painstaking to learn in its precise articulation of hands, arms, shoulders, feet, and legs. It is a signature work by Rainer, who in the 1960s transposed to dance the ideas that were then giving shape to the era’s Minimalist sculpture and painting, abandoning the aesthetics of classical and modern dance—which were rooted in virtuosic technique and expression—in favor of an unenhanced physicality and uninflected continuity of motion. The deceptive “ordinariness” of many of the individual movements in Trio A had a profound impact on the development of postmodern dance.
Publication excerpt from MoMA Highlights: 375 Works from The Museum of Modern Art, New York (New York: The Museum of Modern Art, 2019)
Trio A, choreographed in 1966, became the first part of Rainer's best known performance, The Mind Is a Muscle (1966–68). The artist herself is the dancer in this film documentation from 1978. Rainer's emphasis on ordinary motions and gesture is readily apparent, and the dance is an exploration of action rather than a vehicle for dramatic storytelling. Rainer cofounded the Judson Dance Theater in 1962, and together with her colleagues she questioned the role of dance as a modern art form.
Gallery label from Here Is Every. Four Decades of Contemporary Art, September 10, 2008–March 23, 2009.