Steve Paxton

Steve Paxton

Dia Art Foundation

Steve Paxton, The Beast, 2010. Performance at the Baryshnikov Arts Center, May 20–23, 2010. Photo © Julieta Cervantes. Courtesy Dia Art Foundation, New York.

October 15, 2014

Steve Paxton: Selected Works
Friday, October 17–Sunday, October 19, 2014, 2pm
Friday, October 24–Sunday, October 26, 2014, 2pm

3 Beekman Street
Beacon, NY 12508

Flat, 1964
Smiling, 1967
Bound, 1982
The Beast, 2010

Dia Art Foundation is pleased to present a selection of works from choreographer Steve Paxton’s 50-year career in the galleries of Dia:Beacon in Beacon, New York, in October 2014. Steve Paxton: Selected Works celebrates the choreographer’s influential legacy in revolutionizing the use of improvisation in dance—exploring gravity, sensing time, and re-defining choreographic space. Recipient of the Golden Lion for Lifetime Achievement from the 2014 Dance Biennale, Venice, Paxton is a pivotal figure in American dance. He began his career with the Merce Cunningham Dance Company before becoming a founding member of the experimental dance collectives Judson Dance Theater and Grand Union. 

Steve Paxton: Selected Works will mark the 50th anniversary of the seminal work Flat (1964). The program also features Smiling (1967), an early conceptual duet; the first US restaging of the 1982 solo Bound, performed by Jurij Konjar; and Paxton’s most recent work, The Beast (2010), a solo performed by the choreographer that is based on his research into movement for the spine. The program at Dia:Beacon follows the performances of Night Stand (2004), a work by Paxton and long-time collaborator Lisa Nelson, presented at Dia:Chelsea in October 2013.

Beginning in the early 1960s, Paxton created an expansive ethos of improvised action that provoked untried practices through “ordinary movement as manipulated fragments.” His early works were created from routine activities, in which walking, standing still, eating, smiling, and dressing and undressing provided everyday material for him to enact and examine. Other works were conceived as performance installations, such as Physical Things (part of 9 Evenings: Theatre and Engineering held at the 69th Regiment Armory in New York, 1966), a constructed environment that centered on a polyethylene air-inflated tunnel that the audience walked through to encounter props, image projections, sounds, and performers. In 1972, he conceived open-process performances at the John Weber Gallery in New York that stretched the idea of the dance concert into a lived experience. This event not only led to the development of Contact Improvisation, but affirmed his life-long dedication to creating improvisational work.

Paxton’s unrestricted research into the human form sometimes opens up incongruities. These oppositions leaven his work and are accepted without comment, as his singular exploration of improvisation in movement makes visible subtle moments of self-awareness that underline both the political potential of gesture and the intensity of being beholden to one’s body. 

Visit for tickets and more information.

Related program
Saturday, October 25, 4:30pm
Steve Paxton in conversation with Kelly Kivland, Dia assistant curator
Visit for details and reservations.

This program is made possible in part by Dia’s Board of Trustees and the National Endowment for the Arts.

Steve Paxton
Steve Paxton was born in Arizona in 1939. He began his movement studies in gymnastics and then trained in martial arts, ballet and modern dance. In summer 1958, Paxton attended the American Dance Festival at Connecticut College, where he trained with choreographers Merce Cunningham and José Limón. Soon after, he moved to New York City. He was a member of the José Limón Company in 1959 and a member of the Merce Cunningham Dance Company from 1961 to 1964. He was a founding member of the seminal dance collectives Judson Dance Theater (1962–64) and Grand Union (1970–76). Throughout his career, Paxton’s singular investigation of improvisation has opened new ideas in creating and composing choreographic work. It was during his time with Grand Union that he first formulated Contact Improvisation, a dynamic, partner-based dance that is now practiced worldwide. From Contact Improvisation, he developed the movement practice Material for the Spine in 1986, which examines movement outward from the core of the body.

Paxton’s work has recently been presented at the Museum of Modern Art, New York (2012); Tanz im August, Berlin (2013); Španski Borci Cultural Centre, Ljubljana (2014); 9th International Contemporary Dance Festival, Venice (2014); and Tanzwerkstatt Europa, Munich (2014). In 2013, Dia Art Foundation presented Night Stand (2004), a work by Paxton and Lisa Nelson, at Dia:Chelsea in New York City. Paxton has received two New York Dance and Performance Awards, or Bessies, in 1987 and 1999, and grants from the National Endowment for the Arts; Rockefeller Foundation; Contemporary Performance Arts Foundation; Change, Inc.; and Experiments in Art and Technology. He received a Guggenheim Fellowship in 1995 and, most recently, he received the Golden Lion for Lifetime Achievement from the 2014 Dance Biennale, Venice. He has been a contributing editor to Contact Quarterly and published the DVD Material for the Spine in 2008. He lives in Vermont.

Dia Art Foundation
Founded in 1974, Dia Art Foundation is dedicated to commissioning, supporting, presenting, and preserving contemporary works of art and performance, and to fostering critical discourse. 

Dia also maintains several long-term, site-specific projects, including Walter De Maria’s The New York Earth Room (1977) and The Broken Kilometer (1979), Max Neuhaus’s Times Square (1977), Joseph Beuys’s 7000 Eichen (7000 Oaks) (1988), and Dan Flavin’s untitled (1996), all in Manhattan; the Dan Flavin Art Institute in Bridgehampton, New York; De Maria’s The Vertical Earth Kilometer (1977) in Kassel, Germany; Robert Smithson’s Spiral Jetty (1970) in the Great Salt Lake, Utah; and De Maria’s The Lightning Field (1977) in Quemado, New Mexico. Dia also commissions original artists’ projects produced for the web and produces scholarly publications. Dia currently presents temporary installations, performances, lectures, and readings on West 22nd Street in the Chelsea section of New York City, the neighborhood it helped pioneer.

For additional information or materials, contact press [​at​] / T +1 212 293 5598

Steve Paxton at Dia:Beacon
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Dia Art Foundation
October 15, 2014

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