Allen Memorial Art Museum, Oberlin College
87 North Main Street, Oberlin, OH 44074


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Collective Gestures: The Impact of Experimental Performance at Oberlin in the 1970s

January 18 - July 17, 2022
In Ripin Gallery

Collective Gestures: The Impact of Experimental Performance at Oberlin in the 1970s

January 18 - July 17, 2022
In Ripin Gallery

This exhibition traces the 50-year history of Contact Improvisation (CI), a collaborative dance form whose roots can be found in Magnesium, a dance for 12 men created by Steve Paxton during a residency at Oberlin. Paxton was a part of Grand Union, an improvisational group that Brenda Way ’66 invited for Oberlin’s 1972 winter term. Way founded the Oberlin Dance Collective as a faculty member in 1971 and later established the company in San Francisco. One founding member, Nancy Stark Smith (1952–2020), a creative writing and dance major at Oberlin, would become a major figure in CI, teaching workshops worldwide and coediting the journal Contact Quarterly.

Collective Gestures juxtaposes archival material with works from the AMAM collection to highlight the importance of embodied practice for visual artists as well as dancers. The exhibition features paintings and drawings by Yoko Ono, Theresa Antonellis, John Cage, Robert Motherwell, Judit Reigl, Athena Tacha, and other artists.

The show is presented in conjunction with Critical Mass, a yearlong celebration of the history of CI and the legacy of Oberlin College within the development of this dance form. Related events include contact jams, a winter-term reenactment of Magnesium, and a July 7–11 conference that will include multifaceted workshops, panels, archival films, and contemporary performances, as well as talks by first-generation Contact Improvisers.

Organized by

Ann Cooper Albright

Professor of Dance, Chair of the Dance Department

Hannah Wirta Kinney

Assistant Curator of Academic Programs

With assistance from

Rebecca Janovic ’18

Kate Fishman ’21

Emmacate Sauer ’23


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