Cover image for Dances that describe themselves : the improvised choreography of Richard Bull
Title:
Dances that describe themselves : the improvised choreography of Richard Bull
Author:
Foster, Susan Leigh.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
Middletown, Conn. : Wesleyan University Press, [2002]

©2002
Physical Description:
xiii, 334 pages : illustrations ; 24 cm
Language:
English
Personal Subject:
ISBN:
9780819565501

9780819565518
Format :
Book

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Summary

Summary

Here, Susan Leigh Foster leads an inquiry into improvization as practised by Richard Bull and his contemporaries. Foster is also the author of Reading Dancing and Choreography and Narrative.


Summary

During an improvised performance, both dancers and audience members reflect on how the dance is being made. They ask themselves: What will happen next? What choices will each dancer make? And how will these decisions contribute to the overall effect and significance of the performance?

Trained as a jazz pianist, Richard Bull did not uphold the opposition often found in dance between improvisation and composition. Instead, he believed that dancers, like jazz musicians, could craft a piece spontaneously in performance. Analyzing performances by Bull and many of his contemporaries, Susan Foster argues that their diverse practices embody distinctive values representative of different artistic communities, yet they all share a capacity to reflect on their own making, in a sense, describing themselves.


Author Notes

Susan Leigh Foster is Professor of Dance at the University of California at Riverside, a choreographer and writer


Susan Leigh Foster is Professor of Dance at the University of California at Riverside, a choreographer and writer


Reviews 4

Library Journal Review

For some 30 years, Bull, described by Adriane Ruggerio in the International Dictionary of Modern Dance as "a dancer and stager of improvisational movement pieces," was part of the modern dance scene that thrived in the lofts and galleries of lower Manhattan. Trained as a jazz pianist, Bull explored the use of improvisation in dance and in his works made the creative process more transparent, allowing both the dancers and the audience to be surprised by "what comes next." Foster (dance, Univ. of California, Riverside) once worked with Bull and his wife, Cynthia Novack, and thus brings considerable insight to this study of the processes and procedures of the singular artist's creations. In addition to analyzing Bull's work, she also discusses the work of several of his contemporaries (e.g., Trisha Brown, Bill T. Jones, and Ishmael Houston-Jones). The title refers to a work by Bull in which the dancers recite as they perform; his dances, although improvised, proceeded from written instructions to the dancers, which detailed how each piece was to unfold. A chronological listing of his works and some selections from his writings are included. Not for the casual reader, this book will be of particular interest to specialized collections in dance and the performing arts. Carolyn M. Mulac, Chicago P.L. (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.


Choice Review

A dancer, choreographer, teacher, and historian, Foster took on the formidable task of developing this book after the untimely death of her friend Cynthia Novack (Richard Bull's wife), who began the collection of materials. Novack's death was followed two years later by Bull's. For Bull, improvised dance always described itself, and over a 30-year period he pursued a vision of improvisation that was politically and aesthetically liberating. This book examines Bull's dances as "defining as well as defined by their historical moment." Foster analyzes the issues and concerns and the sociological and political moments that make up the thematic material of the dances. Chapter 2, "Making and Doing," includes an especially useful discussion of the major groups working with improvisation in the late 1960s and 1970s, and photographs that provide a look at what was then considered the fringe of the serious dance world. From Bull's own writings to the notes, which are meticulously done, Foster has captured a part of dance history not previously explored on such a personal level. ^BSumming Up: Recommended. Upper-division undergraduates through professionals. L. K. Rosenberg Miami University


Library Journal Review

For some 30 years, Bull, described by Adriane Ruggerio in the International Dictionary of Modern Dance as "a dancer and stager of improvisational movement pieces," was part of the modern dance scene that thrived in the lofts and galleries of lower Manhattan. Trained as a jazz pianist, Bull explored the use of improvisation in dance and in his works made the creative process more transparent, allowing both the dancers and the audience to be surprised by "what comes next." Foster (dance, Univ. of California, Riverside) once worked with Bull and his wife, Cynthia Novack, and thus brings considerable insight to this study of the processes and procedures of the singular artist's creations. In addition to analyzing Bull's work, she also discusses the work of several of his contemporaries (e.g., Trisha Brown, Bill T. Jones, and Ishmael Houston-Jones). The title refers to a work by Bull in which the dancers recite as they perform; his dances, although improvised, proceeded from written instructions to the dancers, which detailed how each piece was to unfold. A chronological listing of his works and some selections from his writings are included. Not for the casual reader, this book will be of particular interest to specialized collections in dance and the performing arts. Carolyn M. Mulac, Chicago P.L. (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.


Choice Review

A dancer, choreographer, teacher, and historian, Foster took on the formidable task of developing this book after the untimely death of her friend Cynthia Novack (Richard Bull's wife), who began the collection of materials. Novack's death was followed two years later by Bull's. For Bull, improvised dance always described itself, and over a 30-year period he pursued a vision of improvisation that was politically and aesthetically liberating. This book examines Bull's dances as "defining as well as defined by their historical moment." Foster analyzes the issues and concerns and the sociological and political moments that make up the thematic material of the dances. Chapter 2, "Making and Doing," includes an especially useful discussion of the major groups working with improvisation in the late 1960s and 1970s, and photographs that provide a look at what was then considered the fringe of the serious dance world. From Bull's own writings to the notes, which are meticulously done, Foster has captured a part of dance history not previously explored on such a personal level. ^BSumming Up: Recommended. Upper-division undergraduates through professionals. L. K. Rosenberg Miami University


Table of Contents

List of Illustrations
Acknowledgments
Introduction
Genealogies Of Improvisation
Structuring Improvisation
Appropriating the Improvisatory
Scoring the Unanticipated
Corporeal Spontaneity
Improvised Democracies
Conversations
Making And Doing
Daniel Nagrin's Workshop
The Grand Union
Dianne McIntyre's Sounds in Motion
Contact Improvisation
Richard Bull's New York Chamber Dance Group
Improvising Community
Economies Of Community
Financing Dances
The Warren Street Performance Loft
Training and Rehearsing
Interactions
Speech As Act
Talking Dance
Signifying Dancing
The Grand Union
Trisha Brown's Accumulation (1971) with Talking (1973) Plus Watermotor (1977)
Bill T. Jones's Floating the Tongue and 21
Ishmael Houston-Jones's Part 2: Relatives
Person-abilities
Storying Dance
Interlude: Epistolary Choreographies From The Dance That Describes Itself
Improvising Choreography
Re-membering Past, Present, and Future
Re-politicizing the Aesthetic
Choreologue
Voices in the Text
Appendix A A Chronological Listing of WorksRichard Bull
Appendix B Selected WritingsRichard Bull
Notes
Bibliography
Index
List of Illustrations
Acknowledgments
Introduction
Genealogies Of Improvisation
Structuring Improvisation
Appropriating the Improvisatory
Scoring the Unanticipated
Corporeal Spontaneity
Improvised Democracies
Conversations
Making And Doing
Daniel Nagrin's Workshop
The Grand Union
Dianne McIntyre's Sounds in Motion
Contact Improvisation
Richard Bull's New York Chamber Dance Group
Improvising Community
Economies Of Community
Financing Dances
The Warren Street Performance Loft
Training and Rehearsing
Interactions
Speech As Act
Talking Dance
Signifying Dancing
The Grand Union
Trisha Brown's Accumulation (1971) with Talking (1973) Plus Watermotor (1977)
Bill T. Jones's Floating the Tongue and 21
Ishmael Houston-Jones's Part 2: Relatives
Person-abilities
Storying Dance
Interlude: Epistolary Choreographies From The Dance That Describes Itself
Improvising Choreography
Re-membering Past, Present, and Future
Re-politicizing the Aesthetic
Choreologue
Voices in the Text
Appendix A A Chronological Listing of WorksRichard Bull
Appendix B Selected WritingsRichard Bull
Notes
Bibliography
Index