Feelings Are Facts: No to Moving

Nov 19, 2015 by Nickelodeon on The Nickelodeon Blog

Written with the house-burning self-consciousness of youth, the radical choreographer Yvonne Rainer wrote “No Manifesto” in 1966 to announce her company’s rejection of classical dance. As with many manifestos, it also provides a set of constraints for the artist, intended to force them to the frontiers of their medium. As with all manifestos, it gives the audience a rubric by which they can judge avant-garde art that they would otherwise have no idea what to do with. By any metric, Rainer’s dedication to an impossibly ascetic praxis revolutionized the possibilities of dance.

Of course, Rainer’s manifesto was never intended to be successful: it ends with the limitation “No to moving or being moved,” an obvious paradox for dance. Nonetheless, it clarified her radically negative dance philosophy, and later her radically negative film philosophy. Her pieces are troubling but not difficult, opaque yet all surface, a choreography of graceless precision—and a surgical strike to the foundation of dance. Through interviews with the artist, her colleagues, and archival footage of her work, Feelings Are Facts traces the unprecedented desires at play in her choreography and filmography. Rainer’s influence remains largely unspoken, but the film unpacks contemporary art’s indebtedness to her spare, demotic motions, uninterpretable gestures, and paradoxical intertwining of pure formalism and deep politics. But far from hermetic experimentation, can you imagine “Daft Hands” without Rainer’s “Hand Movie“?

Now 80, Rainer has seemed to relax, slightly, in affect if not performance. At 56, she came out as a lesbian, which solidified her place in the queer avant-garde aside her influences John Cage and Merce Cunningham. In 2008, she rewrote “No Manifesto,” not to soften its language, but to turn to it an eye well past the fiery opacity of young vision. This is good for us, because it’s hard to imagine the performer of “The Mind is a Muscle” sitting down for an interview. But now that she has, we should listen. And watch.

—Mike Opal

Showtime and ticketing info here.