Yvonne Rainer’s “No Manifesto”
Yvonne Rainer’s choreography assumed an immense shift in the realm of 1960s American dance in its effort to explore neutrality rather than expressivity. Rejecting any intention to impose drama or adorn embellishment on movement, Rainer began to experiment with functionality, crafting an objective presence of the human body and its movement. Through task-oriented works, most famously Trio A, Rainer stripped movement of stylization and forged a new understanding of dance as an art superior to that of merely entertainment. In alignment with these aspirations, Rainer created the “No Manifesto” to publicize her rejuvenating exploration.
No to spectacle.
No to virtuosity.
No to transformations and magic and make-believe.
No to the glamour and transcendency of the star image.
No to the heroic.
No to the anti-heroic.
No to trash imagery.
No to involvement of performer or spectator.
No to style.
No to camp.
No to seduction of spectator by the wiles of the performer.
No to eccentricity.
No to moving or being moved.
These guidelines are not only significant in the contextualization of Chair Pillow, but more in heightening our embodied understanding as performers.
At the start of rehearsal, we were prompted to bring our backpacks to the center of the wooden floor. Immediately, each of us transformed from practicing dancers again to people, simply executing a daily task.
The weight of the backpack forced most of us to hunch, exerting a new heaviness in our steps, as we lugged the physical burden of academia toward the middle of the room.
It is this intention that informs our performance of Chair Pillow; the realization of the ordinary and emphasis of “doing.”
Of course, it is not the goal to be genuinely heavy, as I’m sure Rainer would not appreciate a vision of dancers hunched exhaustively in their seats. This would be drama and more, spectacle.
Rather, the goal emerges in emulating the way the body adjusts in approach to task as opposed to confrontation of performance. The work demands this comprehension of neutrality.