When dance scores become art prints

Early in the pandemic, as the full impact of the lockdowns began to be felt, Kristy Edmunds, executive and artistic director of UCLA’s Center for the Art of Performance, had an idea: If she couldn’t ask artists to perform, instead of asking them to each create a score for a dance work?

Twenty-six artists participated, drawing, writing, making collages and/or painting submissions. Some are based on actual scores or artifacts from previous works; some are roadmaps to new projects; others are notes for tracks that have been discontinued by COVID-19. Each is available for purchase as a limited-edition art print, with sales benefiting the choreographers themselves and funding future live dance performances at CAP UCLA.

Courtesy of CAP UCLA

“I was starting to organize my archival papers at the start of the pandemic, and this paper landed on my floor. This was a sketch from the 80’s, of a very early work I did at PS 122 called Friends. Looking back, I became a lesbian soon after that work – from my perspective, it sort of marks that, although I don’t think you’d look at the work and say, “Oh, a piece of coming- out.” The black lines were the spatial illustration of where the 15 performers went, what their options were. All of the women – a large network of friends that I had gathered to do this piece – set foot there at first and then moved on from there.

“At the same time, I started thinking about my own footprint, and how it was also like standing on an edge, that precipice, while sheltering in place in Los Angeles. So I took gold paint for the bottom of my foot.” —Ann Carlson, interdisciplinary artist

Four pages of a notebook: three with handwriting, one with propaganda advertising Courtesy of CAP UCLA

“The score was a way to think about how to make a digital work for the National Arts Festival in South Africa in a way that goes beyond just video capture. It was a manual that could be both a roadmap and a space for reflection.

“Put things down on paper, that’s how I basically work. Of course, the body contains ideas. If I can put into words what the body knows, that means the body already knows it. It’s not the other way around for me. » —nora chipaumire, contemporary choreographer

A circle of cursive words coming out of the center in red, with a blue ring cutting it near the edge

Courtesy of CAP UCLA

“I don’t score like that. I have never practiced drawing. I have never practiced writing. The dance was. Then I stopped dancing, and it was incredibly intense. The lines in the middle, these two rings, say, “My last dance is the last dance that I will do. This dance is the last dance I will ever do. That’s very much how I felt. The rays come from a project that I started in January 2020 in India with Kapila Venu which was supposed to last two years, then it just ended. These are excerpts, schedules, directions, notes, selections from our three and a half weeks together. He holds this piece. It holds us. Maybe it’s our duo. I hope it won’t be the only artifact, but for now it is. —Wally Cardona, contemporary choreographer

Lots of footprints in yellow, black, blue and purple, intertwined with words

Courtesy of CAP UCLA

“I thought of a score as a set of directions, or what to do. And so the whole set of instructions that I made try to tell people to move. The step is just something I did in my living room and felt great on a lot of different pieces of music. This would probably be described as a “line dance”.

“When I think of collaborative work, it’s always in a hectic or sonic way. There’s nothing moving or making noise about a footprint. I also have the most horrible visual arts skills. But I was hoping someone would one day hang it on their wall, especially a pediatrician or someone who works with children. So I hired Isabela Dos Santos as an animator and illustrator. I said, “Here’s what I think,” and she kind of went to town with it, drawing a lot of footsteps. —Caleb Teicher, tap and Lindy hop choreographer

The words Courtesy of CAP UCLA

“The Gather Here sign is an archive of many gatherings. I hold it above my head during performances of BANK; The ways we love and the ways we love bestMonumental movement towards being future being(s); and most recently at the Save East River Park walk.

“I love notebooks. Scores also written. Whether it’s paper, fish skin or quilts – the marks, the designs, the words or, as my friend Karyn Recollet describes it, the glyphs – these visions of the future retained, archived, made visible, made explicit, maps of other worlds, are our future technological devices, those that we manufacture, keep, take care of, return, share, develop. —Emily Johnson, Director of Catalyst

lots of overlapping arched arrows on geometric shapes in pink, blue and yellow

Courtesy of CAP UCLA

“You know, when you look at dance in a two-dimensional form from an aerial perspective – which is the score – there’s no time element, so you see everything in a flash. I’m able to seeing options that I wouldn’t necessarily see in rehearsal with the dancers is another way of looking at the piece and thinking about the piece. —Lucinda Childs, postmodern choreographer

12 yellow trapezoids with squiggles

Courtesy of CAP UCLA

“I spend a lot of time drawing what I imagine might happen, which in most cases is wrong because I don’t understand what the forces, acceleration, or power generated by the centripetal force might be, etc

“Once I’ve put together a few action pieces, I draw them and try to weed out the things that I’m not going to spend time trying. Because I have a feeling they’re probably not going to be interesting, not convincing. Members of my company receive the drawings and can read some of them. —Elizabeth Streb, Founder of STREB Extreme Action

A communion veil and two handwritten pages of a notebook on a blue background

Courtesy of CAP UCLA

“I was so embarrassed to score. And every time I feel like, ‘Oh my god, I’m not capable or qualified or prepared for this’, I go back to vulnerability. And I think, ‘Okay, the deeper I dig, the more sincere the expression will be.’

“My creative mind went to work with these two women, Leah Verier-Dunn and Loren Davidson, who are dear collaborators and friends. I tore these two pages out of a diary for an upcoming process. I am one of three sisters and we all wear the same communion veil. So I felt like, you know, me and my two sisters, and these two women, it was connected in some way. I saw this as texture, color, memory, personal history and cultural history, which are such an important part of how I process and create my work. I thought of this veil as a kind of place where these ideas live. —Rosie Herrera, dance theater choreographer

Interviews by Courtney Escoyne, Madeline Schrock and Jennifer Stahl.

Elaine F. Brim