A modern dancer and choreographer who mined everyday experiences like washing, cooking, and building to create her very personal works, Blondell Cummings (1944-2015) was raised in New York City after moving with her parents from South Carolina. Cummings studied with Thelma Hill and Martha Graham, and earned a bachelor’s degree in dance and education from New York University and an MFA from Lehman College. She began her career as an original member of the House, the company founded by Meredith Monk in 1968, and she later oversaw her own ensemble and taught widely. Cummings’s most famous work was the solo seen here, rooted in childhood memories of her grandmother at work in the kitchen. Designated as an American Masterpiece by the National Endowment for the Arts in 2006, Chicken Soup was performed as part of the Pillow’s Splash Festival. Cummings had earlier served as both a Pillow faculty member and artist-in-residence in 1984, becoming one of the first to show her work on the then-new Inside/Out stage.
[Spoken text: All summer they drank iced coffee with milk in it . they sat in their flower-print housedresses . at the white enamel kitchen table . near the window . sometimes — but rarely laughing . endlessly talking about childhood friends . operations . and abortions . deaths . and money .]