Peter Moore’s photograph of Terrain, 1963. Performed at Judson Memorial Church, April 28, 1963. Pictured, from left: William Davis, Albert Reid (foreground); Yvonne Rainer, Judith Dunn, Trisha Brown, Steve Paxton (background). © Barbara Moore/Licensed by VAGA, New York, NY. Courtesy Paula Cooper Gallery, New York

What was Judson Dance Theater? A group of choreographers, visual artists, composers, and filmmakers gathered in Judson Memorial Church in New York’s Greenwich Village for a series of workshops in the early 1960s that ultimately redefined what counted as dance. Stripping dance of its theatrical conventions such as virtuoso technique, fanciful costumes, complex storylines, and the traditional stage, the Judson dancers drew on everyday movements (sitting, walking, kneeling, and other gestures) to create their pieces, often performing them in ordinary spaces. The result, according to Village Voice critic Jill Johnston, was the most exciting new dance in a generation. To its members, Judson was as much an expression of community as it was a site of radical experimentation. As choreographer Aileen Pasloff put it, “Judson is open arms. Judson is big mama. Judson is whatever you need, come in. We’re going to try and give it to you.”

In the audio below, Pasloff and other Judson artists tell the story from the inside: they reflect on how it came to exist, and the way it sought to democratize dance through collaboration.

The speakers, in order of appearance, include:
Al Carmines
Yvonne Rainer
Steve Paxton
Aileen Pasloff
Valda Setterfield
Carolee Schneemann

Original audio captured by Sara Bodinson, Vivian A. Crockett, Nina Callaway, and Christine Murray.

Judson Dance Theater: The Work Is Never Done runs through February 3, 2019. Buy tickets today.