Steve Paxton

© Gene Pittman / Walker Art Center.

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.

10 MAR 2019
SUN 18:30

Main Auditorium
Free entry*
Duration 90 min

* Free entry (subject to availability), tickets available on the day from 6:00am at the ticket-office

In english

Live streaming available on the day at this website

About Steve Paxton cycle

The American choreographer, dancer and improviser, Steve Paxton, born in 1939, has shaped the image of dance over the last six decades. Having started his career in the 1950s, Paxton danced with José Limon and Merce Cunningham, as well as being 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 founder 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. All of this took place while he was writing extensively about movement (he has produced more than 100 articles since 1970) and working tirelessly on improvised dance shows all over the world.

His work has influenced many choreographers and dancers, often to the extent that the origin of some of his researches has tended to become lost: 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 Theater’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, sharing their concerns about the relationship between art and everyday life. In the first few years of the new century, their work was presented in Lisbon on several occasions, and, in 2011, in an initiative promoted by CEM (centro em movimento), Steve Paxton presented the talk/demonstration Material for the Spine at Culturgest.

Based on this perspective, Culturgest presents the Steve Paxton cycle, which includes an exhibition curated by João Fiadeiro and Romain Bigé and the staging of some historical dance performances. 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 two 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.

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