In mid-January 2012 I went and listened to Steve Paxton at Goldsmith’s University in London. The evening was, in many respects, a moving tribute to Merce Cunningham, and Paxton was eloquent, smart and funny. Below is a small collection of some of the things he said:
on accepting versus understanding:
Regarding Cunningham, Paxton described how it took him years to accept, let alone understand Cunningham’s central idea of “just doing the movement”. He described how any question (the thing one is proposing) is amplified when confronted by an audience, but what if you are proposing nothing? He described this as “the Cunningham void”.
on pleasure and Judson:
Paxton remembered, more than anything, the pleasure of the company of the Judson Church group (and also his gym team earlier on). He mentioned Judson’s rule: “Don’t copy other people’s work”, and he also said (of Judson) that “some of the work was crap” but that “it’s long gone”, and and there is “no evidence”.
on contact improvisation:
It’s a virus.
I hope it’s doing well.
I hope it’s being used to explore movement.
on standing still:
Standing still is the wrong term
I recognise that this post might be a little mysterious if you aren’t an improviser, or aren’t aware of Steve Paxton’s work, but I thought it was worth sharing these brief notes because they hint at the breadth of Paxton’s thinking.