Dance Under Construction:
The Choreographers
Marjorie Gamso image
Marjorie Gamso
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In Octopus City, presented at an EAT festival at USC in 1970, Marjorie Gamso set 8 female dancers on random walks atop an arrangement of Plexiglas platforms under which there lay a grid of colored lights controlled by a remote switchboard. Color changes from below cued the dancers, intermittently stopping them in their tracks: when a colored light turned on beneath her feet, the dancer was to begin a phrase (an intricate sequence of gestures and balances worked out in private sessions with the choreographer) that she had learned to associate with that particular color and continue until the light went out - abandoning the choreographed material midstream to resume her walking, or repeating it, if necessary, should the light linger. The event lasted 42 minutes. It was the first time Ms. Gamso had mounted a piece in public. She knew then that she would go on doing so. She did not yet know the direction the work would take.

But she continued to pursue the art of choreography in the "experimental" manner, with a body of work that now consists of nearly 40 pieces, including works made for student groups and work made for film and video. These works are made to be performed in silence, to spoken texts, with so-called "classical" music, with so-called "modern" music; as well as work made in collaboration with living composers, notably Mary Jane Leach, who set the choreographer's text Her 1001 Nights. (Her 1001 Nights took place in an environment designed by visual artist Sheila Ross and lighting designer Pat Dignan in 1988.) What has come to interest her most is the absolutely unique relationship that develops in rehearsal between dancer and choreographer, the way each is constantly forgetting and remembering what the choreography intends, what it always and never intended.

Ms. Gamso has occasionally received government and foundation support for her activities. She is a published writer and is currently writing a play.
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