CriticalDance Forum

"Release Work"
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Author:  Azlan [ Sun Jul 09, 2000 11:18 am ]
Post subject:  "Release Work"

The LA Times' Jennifer Fisher writes about "release work," apparently a new trend in helping dancers move more effortlessly. She writes, "Dancers are flocking to classes in a number of "body therapies" or holistic systems that explore different ways of moving effortlessly and efficiently. Many of them started as a response to performance strain and injury. But now "release technique" has begun to fuel an aesthetic shift that could be the next great swerve for modern and postmodern dance."<P> <A HREF="" TARGET=_blank></A>

Author:  Stuart Sweeney [ Sun Jul 09, 2000 1:43 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: "Release Work"

Thanks for the interesting article Azlan. There are many of our contributors who know far more about this stuff than me, but my impression is that the 'release' method is widely used for professional daily classes here in the UK. Thus it clearly has an influence on present day performance. I have heard one senior Graham teacher deplore the effect as 'dancing like jello'.

Author:  trina [ Sun Jul 09, 2000 2:00 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: "Release Work"

I have seen some dancers perform "release" first it's really interesting to watch becaue it's so loose and floppy, but to me personally, an entire evening of it gets to be a bit "much". To me it seems less like a technnique than a style. But then, I've never seen trisha Brown or any of the "masters".

Author:  Prisanh [ Sun Jul 09, 2000 2:37 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: "Release Work"

Thank you Trina, for making the release work & Trisha Brown connection for me! I saw a T.B. Company concert earlier this year, and have heard the term release technique before, but just now you filled in the blank. <P>In retrospect, I think some guest artists we've had in town use some things which seemed jello-y - I'll have to write them and ask if that was part of their influence.

Author:  Prisanh [ Sun Jul 09, 2000 2:38 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: "Release Work"

That is, now I have a visual to go by.

Author:  Maggie [ Sun Jul 09, 2000 2:59 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: "Release Work"

I went to see a Trisha Brown performance a few years ago. What I was reminded of was work that people do in a class, generally in an improvisation situation, most of which doesn't and shouldn't reach the stage. I left at intermission thinking I would rather watch an Alwin Nikolai performance. There's a master. Or Graham, or Pilobolus. I know that Pilobolus works in the studio experimenting with many different things. All of it does not make it to a performance. The artistry is knowing the difference. <BR>I realize that a lot of people appreciate release work, but to me, it's release work, not performance. It's just not my cup of tea.

Author:  Azlan [ Sun Jul 09, 2000 3:32 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: "Release Work"

Whoa, I'm gone for a bit and suddenly there are all these posts! I guess people love talking about it...<P>This is another quote from the story that tickled me: "'Released' dancers tend to look deliriously relaxed while still vibrant..."<P>Hmm, I'm trying to imagine this. Can someone demonstrate this for us? We'll start a new video section.<P>Seriously, however, it sounds like Jennifer Fisher is making a case that "release technique" has already made in-roads into modern dance works and that it will have a bigger impact in the near future. Is she on the mark?

Author:  grace [ Mon Jul 10, 2000 1:12 am ]
Post subject:  Re: "Release Work"

actually i'd like to say that release work is no NEW trend AT ALL, and i'm amazed someone writing for as significant a paper as the LA Times would get away with being so under-informed....<P>when i work out how to change thread titles, i'll 'deal' with THIS one! Image<P>it's great that so many people were in such a hurry to respond, azlan: i think that's because it's a 'love or hate' topic! Image

Author:  grace [ Mon Jul 10, 2000 1:20 am ]
Post subject:  Re: "Release Work"

having now read further (its a long article - but good) i discover this: " so-and-so) ... agrees that Los Angeles is "not much of a release town." But she thinks that's changing."<P>so maybe it's something about LA having been left behind the times: how UNlikely! Image<P> <BLOCKQUOTE><font size="1" face="Verdana, Arial">quote:</font><HR>... you can't really blame bland dances on release<BR> work, since bad choreography occurs in every genre. And<BR> when nobody will say exactly what release work is, it's hard<BR> to universally condemn or praise it. Some dance writers<BR> have seen its principles at work in tap, flamenco and West<BR> African dance. Not to mention seeing its ideals--the<BR> unforced, connected, vibrant sense of momentum--in<BR> dancers who've never heard of it, like Fred Astaire and the<BR> Nicholas Brothers. Or Mikhail Baryshnikov, who has heard of<BR> it but has never taken a release technique class. (He says<BR> he suspects there's some kind of similar releasing done in<BR> ballet's aerial moves.) <HR></BLOCKQUOTE>

Author:  Maggie [ Mon Jul 10, 2000 3:38 am ]
Post subject:  Re: "Release Work"

.....Exactly what I mean in the quote above, Grace. You put it so clearly when you said it's nothing new. It certainly isn't, but it's being used and confused as a type of technique belonging to itself. It really isn't a dance form but a "work," or aspect of movement. It certainly can be seen as manifestations of technique in other dance forms, but I don't want to go see a performance where it *is* the technique. I've seen enough of that kind of indulgence.

Author:  trina [ Mon Jul 10, 2000 10:27 am ]
Post subject:  Re: "Release Work"

I have to say, reporting from Seattle, that "release" work is definitely a major aesthetic or THE major aesthetic style here. Of course, there are others doing work, but at the main modern/contemporary studio here VELOCITY, I would say it's the main style taught, for better of for worse. Especially amongst younger dancers, (those modern dancers in their 20's) this is an important form, like it or not. As far as in the colleges or universities, I don't know; I'm only reporting what I see in the "outside" world-concert stages and companies. <BR>This is a change from the 70's and 80's, when Bill Evans was the major modern pioneer here; his style is more traditional, mainstream modern (for lack of better terminology)--he now teaches at University of New Mexico; and as I've said,modern dance has changed quite a bit here since he's gone.

Author:  Stuart Sweeney [ Mon Jul 10, 2000 11:23 am ]
Post subject:  Re: "Release Work"

trina for the non-professionals amonst us, could you characterise the difference between Release and say Cunningham class, which is another popular professional modern style here in London?

Author:  Azlan [ Mon Jul 10, 2000 3:27 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: "Release Work"

I'm with you, Stuart. There is so much to learn...

Author:  Prisanh [ Mon Jul 10, 2000 9:20 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: "Release Work"

I think it would help me (as someone who's never taken a class in this release stuff) if someone who HAD could perhaps describe some of the imagery or exercises used.

Author:  trina [ Tue Jul 11, 2000 8:51 am ]
Post subject:  Re: "Release Work"

I am not an expert on release technique, but I will describe the limited amount I know,as an observer. Release technique tries to use a minimum of muscular "gripping" or effort. There is a decided "de-emphasis" on holding shapes or poses. It has a strong sense of flow and breath, and a strong emphasis on the sequential or a "ripply" (how's that for a visual description?)use of movement organization. A company which strongly uses release technique would be Tricia Brown or any of her company members. (She's done several works on White Oak/Baryshnikov lately) This technique, as far as I know, was developed (among others ) by Joan Skinner out of U. of Washington, and associated folks from the related areas of Ideokinesis and Contact Improvisation. Any CD members from New York City, which is an important "haven" for release technique can have more to add. It is not that related to Cunningham, as to my mind, Cunningham is very "shape" oriented with specific positional exercises. Different.

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