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Most Recent Playlist - Dances with Spoken Word

Whether heard on tape or voiced by the dancers themselves, the spoken word figures prominently in all of these dances.

Bill Irwin

The Busking Project, 2023

The physicality of Bill Irwin’s Pillow appearances has  been front and center since his debut in the 1980s, but this most recent performance added words into the mix.

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Kayla Hamilton

Nearly Sighted/ unearthing the dark, 2022

The words heard in this work are directly related to the movement, with the audio description offering a “play by play” of the dancer’s actions.

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Compagnie CNDC-Angers/Robert Swinston

How to Pass, Kick, Fall and Run, 2019

In contrast to the previous example, the words here are layered and completely disassociated from Merce Cunningham’s movement, drawing from John Cage’s “Indeterminacy” as read by musician Adam Tendler and Cage Trust Director Laura Kuhn.

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Paramodernities by Netta Yerushalmy

Revelations: The Afterlives of Slavery, A Response to Alvin Ailey’s "Revelations" (1960), 2018

Embedded within movements drawn from Alvin Ailey’s Revelations, dance scholar Thomas DeFrantz presents remarks inspired by this same modern dance classic.

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Nicola Gunn

Piece For Person and Ghetto Blaster, 2018

In Nicola Gunn’s tour-de-force performance, her delivery of the text and her physicality are given equal weight.

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Faye Driscoll

Thank You for Coming: Play, 2018

Choreographer Faye Driscoll takes an active role in this performance, coaching the audience in a collective reading of a line that we later hear spoken by the cast.

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Dance Heginbotham

The Principles of Uncertainty, 2017

In addition to music performed live by The Knights, we also hear directly from writer-illustrator Maira Kalman, whose book inspired this dance.

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Big Dance Theater

Alan Smithee Directed This Play: Triple Feature, 2015

Annie-B Parson and Paul Lazar interweave music, dance, text, and visual design to create works that feel almost cinematic in scope.

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Carmen de Lavallade

As I Remember It, 2014

This autobiographical work premiered at the Pillow when the iconic Carmen de Lavallade was in her early 80s, looking back over her career and interspersing texts such as this 15th-century poem by François Villon.

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Jazz/Musical Theatre Dance Program Ensemble

"The Battle of Yorktown" from Hamilton, 2014

Set to an early workshop recording of Hamilton, this pre-Broadway staging enabled choreographer Andy Blankenbuehler to try out some ideas in advance, with the performers both vocalizing and lip-synching Lin-Manuel Miranda’s score.

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And at midnight the green bride floated through the village square..., 2013

The influential Yemeni dance artist Margalit Oved often spoke in her own works, and her son Barak Marshall showcased some of her stories in this new creation for BODYTRAFFIC’s 2013 Pillow debut. The story leads into a delicious movement section, so stay tuned!

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Bill T. Jones / Arnie Zane Dance Company

Story / Time, 2012

Members of Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Dance Company do the dancing here while Jones himself handles the speaking, and it’s a fascinating combination. Story/Time was inspired by John Cage’s “Indeterminacy,” a random collection of Cage’s stories.

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Liz Gerring Dance Company

she dreams in code, 2012

The use of text in Liz Gerring’s work is somewhat ironic, as she eschews traditional storytelling in favor of an abstract approach where the movement is the message. This 2012 excerpt from she dreams in code uses recorded text embedded in Michael J. Schumacher’s electronic score.

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Martha @ The Pillow

Debate 2002 / Three Seascapes, 2002

It’s a rare treat to hear the Judson Dance Theatre’s iconic Yvonne Rainer speaking about some of her groundbreaking work, as she does here in a mock “debate” with Richard Move channeling Martha Graham. These choice moments from 2002 include Patricia Hoffbauer’s recreation of an early Rainer solo.

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Joe Goode Performance Group

Doris in a Dustbowl, 2001

A longtime dynamic force in San Francisco, the Joe Goode Performance Group has only made one Pillow appearance thus far, and it was fortuitously a retrospective program that included Goode himself in one of his most enduring duets. Goode’s way of speaking and moving is all his own and well worth sampling.

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Liz Lerman Dance Exchange

Hallelujah: In Praise of Fertile Fields, 2000

The text in this work has special Pillow significance, as it was drawn from the diary of Esther Miller, who served as the cook here in 1942. Lerman incorporated a particularly poignant diary entry into her 2000 work, Hallelujah: In Praise of Fertile Fields, commissioned by the Pillow.

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Urban Bush Women

Self-Portrait, 1998

This solo by Jawole Willa Jo Zollar demonstrates how the spoken word can impart both meaning and texture, as the actual words in this excerpt gradually give way to abstract vocalizations and then to a recorded voice-over.

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Steve Paxton

Improvisation Project, 1998

A pioneer of the improvisational technique known as contact improvisation, here Paxton explains the concept while two dancers demonstrate. More of a lecture-demonstration than a formal dance, this excerpt sheds a fascinating light on a central building block of contemporary dances.

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Ralph Lemon

Solo, 1991

This solo originated from a recorded conversation with tap pioneer LaVaughn Robinson. Lemon and his work were seen here often in the 1980s and 1990s, and this clip presents a rare opportunity to sample his dancing at this earlier stage in his career.

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Blondell Cummings

Chicken Soup, 1989

Although the text is difficult to decipher, Pat Steir’s poem is a key element in this contemporary classic, and it’s reprinted in the accompanying description (which you can see by clicking on “More Details”).

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