Be Here Then

At 40, the Judson Arts Project Cultivates No Limits

"I suppose there must be pockets of insurgency, but if so, it has not crossed into the media," says Jill Johnston, who practically lived at Judson during her years as the Voice's dance and art critic in the '60s. "It's just that we're in very conservative times, and that has blanketed everything. The cutoff of funds for individual artists has shut down frontline work. There can only be a reaction to this, but we're not there yet. The times have to change for things to move in the arts."

Yet below the radar, there is plenty of insurgency, and some of it is still taking shape at Judson, largely thanks to the church's special programs associate, a young, Harlem-based choreographer named Aziza. Quite in keeping with the Judson tradition, she has strong criticisms of the canonical pieces on display. "I admire them for the aesthetic," Aziza explains, "but spiritually there's something lacking for me inside the work. I like to be moved, I like to be pulled, I like to feel full." If Aziza were running this show, "the movement, the look, the music, the language— all would be different." (For a taste of what she means, check out the festival's final event on April 24, a dialogue and performance by Dance of African Descent Downtown).

Aziza's workshops at Judson, which include open-mike and spoken-word events, attract a largely young African American following. Even more distinctive is the participation of multiracial people "who don't want to make choices about being black or white, straight or gay," as Aziza explains. Here is an authentic incarnation of the Judson sensibility, with its shattering of seemingly inviolate boundaries and its nurturing of new idioms that express new identities. "It's just what they were doing in the '60s," says Aziza, "providing space and not fearing where this is going. That's the best way anyone can support culture, just by opening their doors."

Judsonistas Yvonne Rainer (left), Larry Miller, Allison Knowles, John Hendricks, and Wendy Perron surround Al Carmines.
Robin Holland
Judsonistas Yvonne Rainer (left), Larry Miller, Allison Knowles, John Hendricks, and Wendy Perron surround Al Carmines.

No rules, no charge, no limits. That's how Judson lives.

For a schedule of remaining events in the "No Limits" festival and information about ongoing workshops, call 254-6230 or drop by Judson at 55 Washington Square South.

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