There are several different traditions or legacies that you took on and made your own very quickly. Did you have any hesitations about transforming or interpreting that information yourself? Or, did you just accept that it would become a different beast?
Contact was spreading in popularity, not just because of Steve but also through the core group that worked with him. I felt comfortable with that question, "should I teach Contact"? We were all new to the form-Danny Lepkoff was teaching it, Nancy Stark Smith was teaching it. Classes were like research labs
And there's something about it that's very shareable, too
Yes - there were conversations about should it be copyrighted, etc, but Steve against doing that. And I had no problem with the ownership of the form, partly because of that message from Steve. When Allan (Wayne) passed away, there was no one - and there were times in class when I was thinking geez, what would Allan think I was doing here? Because maybe it's not the same as what he taught.
Which maybe isn't a problem...
And it's not the same. He didn't teach large groups of people. There were never more than 8 people per class and he gave students a lot of individual training. I helped it move into a place where 15-20 students could be working in the room at once I keep an eye out, work individually when I need to, but people are doing a lot of their own explorations. And he may have disapproved of that, I don't know! But it works.
But then your version has hit a much larger base of people than it did at the time.
Oh without a doubt. And when I started it was really just because I wanted to do his work with the people in his class, but people started bringing other people to class and within a year there were 20 people in my class. I started getting gigs in places like Geneva and Canada and in fact that's why I was hired at NYU, because Mary Overlie had heard that I was teaching a popular class, and that it might be a good addition to the curriculum at ETW. Now I think that really what was happening was that Allan Wayne's principles were the core of what I was teaching, but I was also including the ability to individually explore technical improvisation which came out of working with Steve and teaching Contact, and also working with Simone Forti, who gave wonderful basic instructions in classes and then just let you work for 40 minutes -
In an improvisational way or creating-
Yes... She would give you basics - if she was interested in animal movement, she would give you some kind of open-ended score, for example of animal exploration with imagistic and technical beginnings and then she would just let you work - it reminded me of being at a visual arts studio, where you're at the easel by yourself and the teacher comes around and looks once in a while. Her class was wonderful in that way.
And was there an endpoint in mind with those classes or it was just a practice?
We would show the work to each other later in the class, or she would arrange it
as a class composition
Was it viewed as a choreographic process or something else?
I don't know if Simone would talk about it as a choreographic process, perhaps more as performance and improvisation and creating a world. I always found her vocabulary really refreshing.
You mentioned your studio here - where were you?
Colin and I found a loft on 93 Greene St on the 5th floor and that was a really great house that we had for about 10 yrs. Then we moved to 108 Wooster St for 10 years. So my first 20 yrs in New York were really in the middle of everything happening in Soho. And part of that was that often at night we'd have huge parties - you'd hear the music on the street and at the time in Soho, if you heard music, you went! So there'd be all these people in the loft that we had no idea who many of them were - it was a scene.
You've mentioned several times the social aspect to what you do and how important connecting to other people is. Do you think that's changed over time - the degree to which the social or celebratory nature of what you do is embraced in this particular field?
I actually think it's deepened and expanded in so many ways. For example, look at the enormity of the Contact Improvisation network and how it's expanded. You can go to any number of cities and find people to dance with at a pretty heightened level, immediately. That's new - not new, but new since the '70s. And I also feel very strongly - I see the powerful way that students at ETW create performance networks and groups to do great projects - it's very social, it's very empowering. It's the kind of world that I think is starting to come to fruition that was just incipient. This approach to work has spread, where there's a professional and a social aspect, a sense of camaraderie, a sense of shared vision, a sense of joy. I think in the fine arts/dance world, before postmodernism, there was a tremendous excitement about modern dance and ballet at different times, but it was a more hierarchical world and had a different tone. So there's both a hierarchical "fine arts world" now, at the same time as there's a community-based feeling in contemporary dance.
that still exists to some degree, that split?
It does and it might have to exist - in New York, and anywhere there's a serious performance venue, you have to explore and embrace some kind of virtuosity and professionalism. And that's a good thing. I have no problem with that. For me as a young artist, shifting gears from the joyful hanging out, jamming, to suddenly - the lights are on, the critics are there, that was a traumatic transition for me. But I was very energetic and ambitious -