Biographical / Historical Note
Scope and Content of Collection
Title: Yvonne Rainer papers
Date (inclusive): 1871-2013 (bulk 1959-2013)
146 Linear Feet
(222 boxes, 12 flatfile folders)
The Getty Research Institute
1200 Getty Center Drive, Suite 1100
Los Angeles 90049-1688
Yvonne Rainer is an avant-garde
American dancer, choreographer, filmmaker and writer. Her papers document her life as an
artist from the late 1950s through 2013, and include photographic material dated as early as
1933. Materials include dance scores; programs and posters; photographic and audiovisual
documentation of performances, rehearsals, and films; correspondence; writings, including
Rainer's feature-length film scripts; and critical response to her work.
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Language: Collection material is in English
Biographical / Historical Note
Choreographer, dancer, filmmaker and writer, Yvonne Rainer is celebrated as a pioneer of
postmodern dance. Her often experimental and challenging work, continuously produced for
more than forty years, has been widely influential. Rainer was born in San Francisco in
1934. In 1956 she moved to New York with painter Al Held to study acting, but the following
year began studying dance instead.
Rainer's early dance study was comprehensive. From 1957 to 1959 she studied modern dance
with Edith Stephen, Afro-Cuban dance with Emile Faustin and Syvilla Fort, and "body work"
with Allan Wayne. She also took lessons at the Martha Graham school for one year, and at
Ballet Arts. In 1960 Rainer attended Ann Halprin's summer workshop in California; studied
composition with Robert Dunn, a composer and friend of John Cage; studied with James Waring;
and began eight years of study with Merce Cuningham. She was performing by 1960, began to
present her own choreography in 1961, was a founding member of the Judson Dance Theater in
1962, and by 1965 had established herself as an influential dancer and choreographer. She
left dance for filmmaking in 1975, and returned to dance in 2000.
Three Satie Spoons in Dunn's workshop,
and performed it and
The Bells in 1961 at the Living Theater.
In 1962, she and other members of Dunn's workshop formed the Judson Dance Theater
collective, which is widely viewed as the foundation of postmodern dance. Artists in other
media also participated as dancers in the Judson Theater performances, including visual
artists Robert Rauschenberg, Red Grooms, Robert Morris, and Al Hansen. Rainer was active in
the Judson Dance Theater through 1966. She also formed her own company briefly and
participated in the Grand Union dance collective.
Between 1962 and 1975, Rainer presented her choreography throughout the United States and
Europe. During this time she choreographed over 40 works. Rainer's innovative work broke
with dance tradition by incorporating ordinary, everyday movements. Critics often situate
Rainer's work from the 1960s within the context of Minimalism, Fluxus, and performance or
event art. Rainer articulated her approach to dance in her 1965 "No Manifesto": "No to
spectacle no to virtuosity no to transformations and magic and make believe no to glamour
and transcendency of the star image no to the heroic no to the anti-heroic no to trash
imagery no to involvement of performer or spectator no to style no to camp no to seduction
of spectator by the wiles of the performer no to eccentricity no to moving or being moved."
However, Rainer did not conceive of her choreography as purely anti-metaphorical, stating in
an interview that, "as a dancer I knew it was impossible: the body speaks no matter how you
try to suppress it." (
Art in America, July 1977).
Trio A, part of
The Mind is a
, is perhaps Rainer's best-known work, and it has been performed by many
other dancers since its creation.
Rainer began working in film in the mid-1960s, completing five films between 1966 and
1969. In 1968 she began to incorporate visual materials, including film clips and slides of
text and images, into her performances. From 1970 to 1974, her work in performance and film
overlapped. In 1975 she made a full transition to filmmaking and by 1996 had made seven
Rainer's films address a range of issues, including sexuality, domestic and sexual
conflict, U.S. imperialism, social privilege, gender inequality, disease and aging, as well
as everyday activity. The films also contain autobiographical material. Her earliest three
films are non-narrative, mixed media pieces about dance and performance that employ the
collage methods of her live performances. They combine reality and fiction, sound and visual
elements to address social and political concerns. Rainer's latest feature film,
MURDER and murder, featuring a lesbian couple as the main
characters, has a more traditional narrative structure.
Rainer returned to dance in 2000 to choreograph work for the White Oak Dance Project,
including the piece,
After Many a Summer Dies the Swan, and a
2006 work based on Balanchine's AGON, presented at Dance Theater Workshop. In 2002 she also
made the video,
After Many a Summer Dies the Swan:
Rainer has published articles about her work and artistic and theoretical concerns
throughout her career. Her books include
Yvonne Rainer: Work
The Films of Yvonne Rainer, a
collection of her film scripts (1989),
A Woman Who...: Essays,
Feelings are a Fact of
Rainer has received numerous awards and fellowships, including two Guggenheim Fellowships
(1969, 1988), three Rockefeller Fellowships (1988, 1990, 1996), a MacArthur Fellowship
(1990-1995), and a Wexner Prize (1995), as well as four Honorary Doctor of Fine Arts
Open for use by qualified researchers, except audiovisual materials, which are unavailable
until reformatting is complete.
Yvonne Rainer papers, 1871-2013, bulk 1959-2013, The Getty Research Institute, Los Angeles,
Accession no. 2006.M.24.
Acquired in 2006 from Yvonne Rainer.
Jocelyn Gibbs did preliminary processing, arranged the collection and wrote the box list in
2006. Amy Sloper rehoused the film reels and wrote physical descriptions in 2007. Martha
Steele completed the processing and wrote the finding aid from January 2007 through March
2009. Andra Darlington edited the finding aid in December 2009. In 2014, Emmabeth Nanol
processed and incorporated additional materials dated 2003 to 2013.
Reformatted Audiovisual Materials
DVD use copies are available for the following audiovisual materials: DVD2, DVD4, DVD5,
DVD10, DD1, V41, V61, V74-V83, V107, V113, V124, F10, F24.
Over 80 monographs and serials were transferred to the library. These publications can be
searched in the Library catalog by doing a Provenance search under "Yvonne Rainer."
Scope and Content of Collection
The Yvonne Rainer Papers document Rainer's work as a dancer, choreographer, performer, film
maker and writer, from the late 1950s to 2013. Collection materials include Rainer's
personal notebooks; correspondence; work files documenting her choreography, filmmaking and
critical writing; materials documenting her touring, teaching activity, art exhibitions and
film retrospectives; programs and posters; reviews of her work; research files; photographic
and audiovisual documentation of her milieu, including posters and programs for works by
contemporary artists and other ephemera. In Series I, Rainer's personal notebooks from 1949
to 2004 provide insight into her creative process. Her appointment books cover most years
from 1970 to 2012. The correspondence in Series II is from dancers, choreographers, other
artists, critics and avant-garde associates. Notable correspondents include Steve Paxton,
Robert Morris, Trisha Brown, Joan Jonas, Simone Forti, Jasper Johns, Benjamin Buchloh, Paul
Sharits, and Mark Rappaport. There is also personal correspondence, including letters from
Robert Morris during the years that they lived together from 1964 to 1970, original letters
written to her brother Ivan from 1952 through 1967, and letters from her neice, Ruth Rainer,
that document the encouragement and support Rainer provided during the years that her niece
studied music and voice in Europe.
Series III contains materials resulting from Rainer's creative process, including
descriptions of dances, directions for dancers, dance scores, music scores, diagrams,
drawings, programs (some annotated, some designed by Robert Morris, Steve Paxton and Robert
Rauschenberg), reviews, scripts for dancers, lists of objects used in dances, biographies of
dancers, texts for wall projections, small posters, film scripts (including drafts, some
with annotation), shooting notes, production budgets, accounting sheets, production
schedules and notes, character studies, and music rights information. Series III also
contains Rainer's résumé and files of Rainer's published and unpublished writing, including
annotated manuscripts and drafts. Additional documentation of Rainer's works, such as
photographs, programs and posters, is in Series V and VII.
Documentation of Rainer's touring, in Series IV, covers her tours in Europe in 1964, 1965
and 1967, and in the United States from 1968 to 1997. Also in Series IV, conference
documentation includes files on Rainer's work with Bérénice Reynaud on Sexism, Colonialism,
Misrepresentation: A Corrective Film Series and Conference, 1988-1989. The same series also
contains Rainer's teaching files from her work at the School of Visual Arts, New York, the
Independent Study Program and the Whitney Museum of American Art, as well as files relating
to her lectures, exhibitions, and retrospective screenings of her films.
In Series V, programs and posters are arranged in a chronological sequence, beginning with
a list of dance performances from 1961 to 1965. Programs and posters for non-Rainer
performances and events are included, especially in the material from the early 1960s, which
include an announcement for Four Happenings (1963) by Allan Kaprow, Robot Opera (1964) by
Nam June Paik, and Robert Rauschenberg's 1952 exhibition, White Paintings, at Leo Castelli
gallery. Also in Series V, the files of reviews provide a history of the critical and
popular reception of Rainer's work; Jill Johnston's reviews of dance performances in the
1960s are particularly well represented here and in the research files in Series VII.
Rainer's research files on people, organizations and a range of topics show her political
and social concerns and her exploration of the work of other artists.
The bulk of the photographic materials in Series VII documents Rainer's performances,
including many photographs by Peter Moore. There is also documentation of her films in the
form of production stills and frame enlargements, and some family and other personal
photographs including (studio?) portraits of Rainer from the late 1950s, a photograph of
Rainer with Andy Warhol at a reception in the 1960s, photographs of Al Held's studio, and of
Robert Morris. Also included are photographs from the late 1950s and early 1960s of Rainer
with Edith Stephan, in Louise Gilkes studio, in an off Broadway play, and at the Ann Halprin
Workshop. The slides are mostly those used in Rainer's performances, but also include
portraits of Rainer from 1957 and 1958.
In Series VIII, audiovisual materials include audio and video recordings, film reels,
DVD's and a laser disc. Among the films are Rainer's short films from the 1960s and all of
her feature films. Performances documented here include
Trio A with Flags,
Trio A Pressured,
Continuous Project Altered
In the College,
Connecticut Rehearsal, Grand Union
performances (copies from the Fales Library, NYU),
Dance Fractions for
the West Coast
White Oak Dance Project, and
After Many a Summer Dies the Swan. The sound recordings include
interviews and music for performances. This series also includes a film possibly by Michael
Fajans and videos by others.
Oversize posters and fliers that cannot be thematically situated in other parts of the
archive are described in Series IX. Finally, writings about Rainer, including published
interviews, comprise the last series of the collection, Series X.
Arranged in ten series:
Series I. Notebooks, appointment and address books, 1949-2012, undated;
Series II. Correspondence,
Series III. Works,
Series IV. Professional
and exhibition files, 1964-2009;
Series V. Programs and
reviews, 1959-2013, undated;
Series VI. Topical
research files, circa 1951-2005, undated;
Series VII. Photography,
Series VIII. Audiovisual
materials, circa 1963-2003;
Series IX. Oversize
materials, 1871, 1967, 1980, circa 2000, undated;
Series X. Writings about
Rainer, dance and film, 1934-2013, undated.
Subjects - Names
Buchloh, B. H. D.
Subjects - Topics
Experimental films -- United States
Choreographers -- United States
Modern Dance -- United States
Feminist films -- United States
Motion picture producers and directors -- United States
Genres and Forms of Material
Buchloh, B. H. D.