I Am Here, Here I Am Not
July 26, 2015 6:46 PM   Subscribe

Seminal post-modern choreographer Sally Gross has died at 81: "Because that's what we exist on, is the breath. It's the inhale and the exhale that guarantees us that we're living. And it's only because we're alive that we can even take on the idea of performing."

In the early 1960s, while she was dancing with the Judson group, she began teaching a class in movement, largely for women, that met in her apartment. It continued for more than 40 years with some of the same participants.

“I had done lots of things that I thought were really appropriate for people who were nondancers but wanted to dance,” Ms. Gross recalled in 2001 about the genesis of the class. “Wanted to move, more than dancing. I think about myself the same way, as moving. Sitting, standing and lying down. Everybody at that point was probably in their 30s and they could do a great deal. I was there to push them. Many of them had had children and just needed to feel as good as their kids felt.”

A lifelong New Yorker, Gross was featured in not one or two but three documentaries in her later years.

You can also see her in Kerouac's 1959 Pull My Daisy or here, sitting on a pile of mattresses with some of her friends.

Paulson: That's life, those four things?

Gross: Those four things. So, walking then becomes running if you do it a little faster. It becomes leaping if you take it off the floor. So that's the way I begin when I start working with people, whether it's a mixture of performers or not. And I do this with the dancers all the time who I work with. I do it with myself. Just yesterday, a woman who is a writer who knows a lot about movement said "I've been spending too much time in a chair, I need something to get me moving. What should I do?" And I said "Work with the Four Dignities." Because every change you make is a change, even the most subtle. So if you're sitting and you simply turn yourself to the left or the right, or you move an arm, you've made a change and you've moved a part of the body. So how do you go from lying down to sitting up? You don't have to do it quickly, you don't have to do it slowly. But then you could decide that you want to do it quicker and slower. You get the body flowing and the movement flowing, and then you can take it up on your feet. Then you can do the same activities lying, standing, sitting, and walking on your feet. So, if you say to somebody "Lie down" and they're standing up, they'll probably tip over. Well that's fine, that's lying down. That's where I begin everything.
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posted by pt68 at 8:57 AM on July 27, 2015

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