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Table of contents What's This?
  • Descriptive Summary
  • Biographical / Historical Note
  • Administrative Information
  • Separated Material
  • Scope and Content of Collection
  • Indexing Terms

  • Descriptive Summary

    Title: Yvonne Rainer papers
    Date (inclusive): 1871-2013 (bulk 1959-2013)
    Number: 2006.M.24
    Creator/Collector: Rainer, Yvonne
    Physical Description: 146 Linear Feet (222 boxes, 12 flatfile folders)
    The Getty Research Institute
    Special Collections
    1200 Getty Center Drive, Suite 1100
    Los Angeles 90049-1688
    URL: http://hdl.handle.net/10020/askref
    (310) 440-7390
    Abstract: 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.
    Request Materials: Request access to the physical materials described in this inventory through the catalog record  for this collection. Click here for the access policy .
    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.
    Rainer choreographed 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 Muscle , 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 feature-length films.
    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: Hybrid .
    Rainer has published articles about her work and artistic and theoretical concerns throughout her career. Her books include Yvonne Rainer: Work 1961-73 (l974), The Films of Yvonne Rainer, a collection of her film scripts (1989), A Woman Who...: Essays, Interviews, Scripts (1999), and Feelings are a Fact of Life (2006).
    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 degrees.

    Administrative Information


    Open for use by qualified researchers, except audiovisual materials, which are unavailable until reformatting is complete.

    Publication Rights

    Preferred Citation

    Yvonne Rainer papers, 1871-2013, bulk 1959-2013, The Getty Research Institute, Los Angeles, Accession no. 2006.M.24.

    Acquisition Information

    Acquired in 2006 from Yvonne Rainer.

    Processing history

    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

    Selected digitized versions are available online. Connect to selected digitized audio and video recordings.   Access is available only to on-site readers and Getty staff.
    DVD use copies are available for the following audiovisual materials: DVD2, DVD4, DVD5, DVD10, DD1, V41, V61, V74-V83, V107, V113, V124, F10, F24.

    Separated Material

    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 Three Seascapes , Room Service, Trio A, Trio A with Flags, Trio A Pressured, Continuous Project Altered Daily , In the College, Performance, Connecticut Rehearsal, Grand Union performances (copies from the Fales Library, NYU), We Shall Run , Chair/Pillow, Connecticut Rehearsal, 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.

    Arrangement note

    Arranged in ten series: Series I. Notebooks, appointment and address books, 1949-2012, undated; Series II. Correspondence, 1953-2008, undated; Series III. Works, 1960-2005, undated; 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, 1933-2004, undated; 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.

    Indexing Terms

    Subjects - Names

    Moore, Peter
    Buchloh, B. H. D.
    Brown, Trisha
    Rainer, Yvonne
    Morris, Robert

    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

    Slides (photographs)
    Photographic prints
    Photographs, Original
    Negatives (Photographs)
    Motion pictures


    Brown, Trisha
    Rainer, Yvonne
    Morris, Robert
    Moore, Peter
    Buchloh, B. H. D.