Steve Paxton’s solo Bound opened last night at REDCAT, aka CalArts’ Downtown Center for Contemporary Arts. Choreographed in 1982, Bound was performed by Slovenian born dancer Jurij Konjar. Now 77 years old, Paxton no longer dances in public but he and postmodern artist Simone Forti (aged 81) performed an hour long improvisational conversation in the lobby of REDCAT before the theater opened. It was truly an astonishing, living dance history event. While speaking they improvised walking, touching, crawling and 81 year old Forti even took off into a full run and leaped through the REDCAP lobby. They talked about Merce Cunningham, Tai Chi and yes, the benefits of composting. Throughout the hour it became clear that these two really care about and respect each other as friends and as artists.

Jurij Konjar © Nada Zgank
Jurij Konjar
© Nada Zgank

Steve Paxton began his dancing career performing with the José Limón Dance Company (1960) and he was a member of the Merce Cunningham Company from 1961 through 1964. He later became a founding member of both the Judson Dance Theater (1962) and the group Grand Union (1970) in New York. What Paxton is best known for, however, is his development of Contact Improvisation; a dance and choreography technique that rapidly became popular nationally and internationally.

Jurij Konjar has a very strong stage presence. He worked with Les Ballets C de la B before he began creating his own work and became aware of Steve Paxton’s work through an “in-depth observation” of Paxton’s Goldberg Variations video. He has also worked with Maja Delak, Janez Janša, Boris Charmatz, Martin Kilvady, and the Tuning Ensemble.

Paxton’s program notes state that “Bound is a dance performance of vignettes; each is isolated, but like numbers in a column, they begin to add up to something larger as they accumulate. Some episodes are dry poetic thoughts. Some are unchoreographed dance remarks.”

The music is very eclectic; Bulgarian State Radio and Television Female Vocal Choir, The Canadian Brass and various soundscapes. We hear what sounds like 2way radio operators talking through distorted noises and the sound that a spot welder makes when it arcs. There is the projection of a camouflaged material pattern that all but erases Konjar’s real live figure because of what he is wearing. There are long 2X8 boards that first designate the performance area, but that Konjar later moves around and builds different structures with. At one point Konjar sits quietly between a rocking chair and a baby’s cradle giving the distinct connection of his infancy to his old age.

Paxton is a postmodern dance artist. His work is often minimal in nature, but the images that come across are powerful and always relevant. In Bound, those images are sometimes brief and they are ever-changing. Sometimes the movement is pedestrian in nature and other times it is complex, sporadic and yes, even humorous. Paxton tells us a story through a non-narrative art form. It is the story of human nature, his inner feelings and a look into our psyche. His work is what you see; nothing more and nothing less.