“His dances exist on the perilous edge between authenticity and posing, driven by carefully timed tension and a heightened sensitivity.” —Time Out New York
Minneapolis, February 26, 2016—In recent years choreographer Trajal Harrell has ignited American and European stages with the inspired “dance-fiction” series Twenty Looks or Paris is Burning at the Judson Church. These conceptual experiments combined postmodern dance with the lascivious poses of voguing from the African American and Latino underground culture. In 2013 the series’ wild (M)imosa took the Walker’s Out There program by storm.
With The Ghost, Harrell presents a new body of work and invents an even more improbable meeting promising surprising choreographic explosions. Two legends of contemporary dance serve as a pretext for an irreverent tribute that integrates elements of stand-up, fashion runway vaunts, and breathtakingly executed choreography mixing high modernism with romanticism and a club sensibility. The ghost of Montpellier might be Dominique Bagouet, France’s renowned figure of 1980s Nouvelle Danse; the samurai might be Tatsumi Hijikata, the founding father of the experimental Japanese dance form butoh—but this dance is full of surprises. In its American debut, this Walker co-commissioned work features a tight-knit family of remarkable New Yorkers and Europeans, inviting itself—and you—into a reimagined dreamlike contemporary dance history. The Ghost of Montpellier Meets the Samurai has its U.S. Premiere on Friday–Sunday, March 11–13, 8 pm, Sunday, 7 pm in the William and Nadine McGuire Theater.
Trajal Harrell’s work has been presented at many venues including The Kitchen, Danspace Project, Dance Theater Workshop, P.S. 122, Institute of Contemporary Arts (ICA) Boston, Dance Mission (San Francisco, CA), the former San Francisco Institute of Choreography, Cornell University’s Schwartz Center for the Performing Arts, Brooklyn Arts Exchange (BAX), Snug Harbor Cultural Center, and CUNY’s Martin Segal Theater and Proshansky Auditorium, among others. Internationally, his work has toured to festivals in France, Austria, the Netherlands, Switzerland, Portugal, Belgium, Brazil, Germany, Poland, Croatia, and Mexico including prestigious festivals such as such as Festival d’Automne Paris; Festival d’Avignon; Tanz im August Festival- Berlin; TransAmeriques- Montreal; Holland Festival- Amsterndam; Impulstanz-Vienna; Panorama Festival- Rio de Janeiro, Brazil; and Crossing the Line Festival, New York, among others. A graduate of Yale University with a B.A. in American Studies with a concentration in Creative Processes, he has been an artist-in-residence at The White Oak Residency and Dance Center, Montpellier Danse, Snug Harbor Cultural Center, Movement Research, Bennington College, CDC Toulouse, ICA Boston, PACT Zollverein (Essen, Germany), Workspace Brussels, Wp Zimmer (Antwerp, Belgium), Impulstanz Vienna International Dance Festival, Tanzhaus Düsseldorf, TanzWerkstatt-Berlin, Skite 2010 (Caen, France), CCN de Montpellier Languedoc-Rousillon, CCN de Franche-Comté à Belfort, and CNDC Angers. He was awarded the prestigious Guggenheim Fellowship in 2012, as well as a Saison Fellowship in 2011 to study in Japan. Most recently he was named a Doris Duke Impact Award Artist.
His training in dance has taken place primarily in the following institutions: Movement Research, The Trisha Brown School, Centre National de la Danse (Paris) with Yvonne Rainer, City College of San Francisco, the former San Francisco Institute of Choreography, Martha Graham School of Contemporary of Dance, Brown University, Roger Williams University (Bristol, RI), and Trinity Rep Conservatory (Providence, RI). As well as a primary research in the Voguing ballroom scene, he has also studied voguing and whacking with master teachers Archie Burnett and Lassandra Ninja.
During the fall of 2009, he premiered the first work in a new series entitled Twenty Looks or Paris is Burning at The Judson Church at The New Museum, co-presented by Danspace Project and Crossing the Line Festival. This work, Twenty Looks or Paris is Burning at The Judson Church (S), has also been shown in international festivals and at The Institute of Contemporary Arts Boston in partnership with Summer Stages Dance/Concord Academy. It was also chosen by Time Out New York as one of the best dances of 2009. Most recently, he premiered Twenty Looks or Paris is Burning at The Judson Church (M) aka (M)imosa, also chosen by Time Out New York as one of the best dances of 2011 and supported by a FUSED grant. Twenty Looks…(XS) also premiered at The Kitchen alongside (M) in February 2011. Besides the New Museum, where he was the first performing artist to have a work invited back for an encore performance-run, he has also shown work in visual art contexts such as MoMA, Perfoma Biennial, MoMA PS1, Fondation Cartier (Paris), The Margulies Art Warehouse (Miami), The Bronx Museum of the Arts, Serralves Museum (Porto), Centre Pompidou- Metz, Centre Pompidou Paris, ICA Boston, PICA- Portland Institute of Contemporary Art, The Museum of Rio de Janeiro (MAR), The Barbican, and Art Basel-Miami Beach. A collaboration with visual artist Sarah Sze entitled The Untitled Still Life Collection premiered at The ICA Boston/Summer Stages Dance in November 2011 as part of the Dance/Draw exhibition and has since been shown at Performatik Festival in Brussels and The Serralves Museum in Porto, Portugal. His ongoing performance projects, The Conspiracy of Performance and Tickle the Sleeping Giant /The Ambien Piece have been shown in galleries in New York, Paris, Berlin, and Tokyo. In July of 2015, Harrell was an artist-in-residence in the galleries of The Barbican (London) as part Doug Aitken’s Station-to-Station project. Antigone Sr./Twenty Looks or Paris is Burning at The Judson Church (L) premiered at New York Live Arts (formerly Dance Theater Workshop) in April 2012. The last performance size in the Twenty Looks…_series, _Judson Church is Ringing in Harlem (Made-to-Measure)/Twenty Looks or Paris is Burning at The Judson Church (M2M) premiered in October 2013 at Danspace Project in New York. Before beginning international touring, it was reprised the following January at MoMA PS1 with the distinction of being the first dance commission of MoMA PS1. Antigone Sr. was awarded The 2012 Bessie, the New York Dance and Performance Award for Outstanding Production, for daring to create a 21st century drama where postmodern dance, voguing and Greek tragedy collide, and in so doing offer new possibilities for the future of performance. Harrell participated in a two-year Annenberg Residency at The Museum of Modern Art to investigate the aesthetic possibilities of Butoh aesthetics through the theoretical lens of “realness.” This latest body of work includes Used Abused and Hung Out to Dry, which premiered at MoMA; The Return of The Modern Dance for Cullberg Ballet; The Ghost of Montpellier Meets the Samurai which premiered at the 2015 Montpellier Danse Festival; and The Return of La Argentina, co-commissioned by MoMA and Le Centre National de la Danse.
Tickets to The Ghost of Montpellier Meets the Samurai are: Friday, $24 ($20); Saturday and Sunday, $28 ($24) and are available at walkerart.org/tickets or by calling 612.375.7600.