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Steve Paxton

Steve Paxton

Steve Paxton

Steve Paxton began his career by studying in various areas, ranging from the techniques of ballet and modern dance to oriental martial arts, which ended up influencing his work over the years. In the early 1970s, evoking the experience of a game, influenced by the practice of gymnastics and Aikido – the Japanese martial art that renders the violence of any attack ineffective – he created the technique known as Contact Improvisation, which continues to be an important aid for all manner of artistic and somatic research taking place worldwide. His profound knowledge of the body, its sensations, its physiology and its relationship with space and with other bodies, similarly expressed in his most recent technique Material for the Spine, leads us to another dimension: that of the ethics of living together.

Having spent many years on tour, improvising alone, in duets or as a group, Paxton has been living in an artistic community in North Vermont since the 1970s. This talk is based on these movements, offering us a rare opportunity to listen to one of the most influential contemporary dancers and choreographers.

Steve Paxton cycle at Culturgest
Steve Paxton conference at Culturgest
© Gene Pittman / Walker Art Center.

10 MAR 2019
SUN 18:30

Emílio Rui Vilar Auditorium
Free entry
Duration 90 min

In english

About Steve Paxton cycle

American choreographer, dancer and improviser Steve Paxton, born in 1939, has been continuously shaping the face of dance over the last six decades. Having started his career in the 1950s, Paxton danced with José Limon and Merce Cunningham. He was one of the founders of the Judson Dance Theatre, the source of various collective creations that have laid the roots of postmodern dance. He was also a founding member of the New York-based improvisation collective Grand Union. He is the inventor of two techniques – Contact Improvisation and Material for the Spine – and has worked together with several visual artists (such as Robert Rauschenberg), also leaving his distinctive mark on the art world. Throughout his life, Paxton has been writing extensively about movement (he has produced more than 100 articles since 1970) and working tirelessly on performing improvised and choreographed works all over the world.

His work has influenced many choreographers and dancers, who have inherited the obsessions that characterize his work: the analysis and integration of everyday movements (such as walking), the importance of touch, weight and balance, and an openness to the non-technical body.

In Portugal, Steve Paxton and the Judson Dance Theatre’s way of thinking had a decisive influence on many of those taking part in the movement that has come to be known as the New Portuguese Dance, and, in various ways, shared their concerns about the relationship between art and everyday life.

Based on this perspective, Culturgest presents the Steve Paxton cycle, which has as its main axis an exhibition curated by João Fiadeiro and Romain Bigé and an evening of performances from the 1960's to present day. But the Paxton programme doesn’t end here. The transverse nature of his work is further expressed in a series of five talks (the first of them given by Paxton himself) and three workshops about Contact Improvisation and Material for the Spine, with the involvement of schools and the transformation of the exhibition space into a performative arena.


Relation with dance schools

In the frame of the Steve Paxton exhibition, Culturgest approached some dance schools and research centers in Lisbon in order to make sure that the body of work of one of the most influential thinkers-makers from dance history would not go unnoticed. This collaboration will start with a series of lecture-demonstrations that Romain Bigé and João Fiadeiro, curators of the exhibition, will give on Steve Paxton’s legacy in each of the associated schools/centers. Then it unfolds with an intensive and continuous presence of students and researchers in the exhibition space (with a free pass) so they can deepen their individual research on Paxton’s work. Finally, we have encouraged the schools/centers to temporary dislocate some of their classes and initiatives into the space of the exhibition so the space will be “occupied” by practitioners and art researchers. 

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