‘Don’t give the game away’: Rainer’s 1967 reflections on dance and the visual arts  revisited.




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Peer reviewed


In April 1967, Yvonne Rainer published an article ‘Don’t give the game away’ in Arts Magazine. Although she had been asked to discuss new developments in dance, she wrote instead about some minimalist sculptures by Robert Morris - who she describes as her husband - and Andy Warhol’s recent experiments in film, including Chelsea Girls. This was a time when a shift was taking place among progressive dance artists away from an alignment with new music and towards an exploration of progressive ideas shared with visual artists, particularly those working in the fields of minimal and conceptual art. The fact that Rainer was writing at all is itself symptomatic of this shift. In both the visual and performing arts, in Manhattan during the 1960s, artists were themselves beginning to use writing as a way to map out a theoretical context in which to locate their work and that of their colleagues. Hence visual artists like Robert Morris, Donald Judd and Robert Smithson wrote reviews and articles for magazines like Artforum, while, under Richard Schechner’s editorship, The Drama Review published writings by Allan Kaprow, Claes Oldenburg, George Macunias and others. Rainer’s so-called ‘no manifesto’ is part of an essay she wrote for The Drama Review. By the early 1970s, Rainer, Trisha Brown, Meredith Monk and others were presenting performances in major art museums in New York at a time when their work was largely rejected by the main theatres presenting modern dance. Writing in the magazine Artforum in 1974, film theorist Annette Michelson pointed out that both experimental dance and film in New York were being produced alongside what ‘constitutes the center of our commerce in the visual arts. They live, and work, however, entirely on the periphery of their world’s economy, stimulated by the labor and production of that economy, with no support, no place in the structure of its market’ (Michelson 1974: 57-8). This paper uses Rainer’s 1967 article to explore the relation between Rainer’s own work and contemporary concerns within visual art practice. It argues that the formal properties that she identifies in Morris’s sculptures and the kinds of performative behaviour recorded in Warhol’s films correspond to two key aspects of Rainer’s own avant-garde deconstruction of choreographic processes. It points to the persistence of these avant-garde tactics in the works Rainer has created since her return to dance-making since 1999, and traces their influence in the 1990s and 2000s in the work of progressive European dance artists who, like Rainer, have a sophisticated knowledge of art history and of current concerns in the visual arts.


paper presented at 'Yvonne Rainer: Intermedial Constellations, A Symposium' Ludwig Museum, Cologne 4-5th May 2012


Yvonne Rainer, Trio A, Michael Fried, Art and Objecthood, 'theatricality', Andy Warhol, Chelsea Girls, Minimalism, Minimalist dance


Burt, R. (2012) ‘Don’t give the game away’: Rainer’s 1967 reflections on dance and the visual arts  revisited. Yvonne Rainer: Intermedial Constellations, A Symposium' Ludwig Museum, Cologne 4-5th May 2012


Research Institute

Institute of Drama, Dance and Performance Studies