From the Theatre of the Bauhaus’s Triadisches Ballett in Weimar Germany to Japanese Butoh following World War II, dance encompasses a diverse range of rhythmic movements and performance techniques. American choreographer Merce Cunningham, a student of modern dance pioneer Martha Graham, began experimenting with interdisciplinary collaborations between visual and performing artists while at Black Mountain College. Developed in tandem with his longtime partner, the avant-garde composer John Cage, Cunningham used “chance operations” such as coin-tossing or dice-rolling to generate sequences of unanticipated choreographic variations devoid of plot or narrative. Influenced by Cunningham, Judson Dance Theater incorporated objects and gestures from everyday life and paired performers such as Trisha Brown, Yvonne Rainer, and Carolee Schneemann with artists-cum-scenic designers like Donald Judd and Robert Rauschenberg. Such practices heralded dance’s contemporary (or postmodern) era. Contemporary choreographers Rashaad Newsome and Trajal Harrell have inserted themselves into this lineage by featuring improvisation as a compositional device in multimedia performances that abstract the intricate bodily gestures of voguing and vernacular dance.

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