To create Channels/Inserts, Cunningham and Atlas divided the Cunningham Dance Company's Westbeth studio into sixteen possible areas for dancing and used chance methods based on the I Ching to determine the order in which these spaces would be used, the number of dancers to be seen, and the events that would occur in each space. Atlas employed cross-cutting and animated mattes or wipes to indicate a simultaneity of dance events occurring in different spaces, as well as to allow for diversity in the continuity of the image.
Dancers are dressed in everyday clothing and at times stop dancing to congregate casually. This cessation, of course, is legible neither as dance nor "not-dance," but is in-between and liminal, pointing to Cunningham's persistent interest in "pedestrian" movement. Movement, the choreographer seems to indicate, exists in a continual tension—the everyday appears in the dance phrase and the dance phrase appears in the everyday, or bear each other's traces. The dancing body is always-already an everyday body and in turn, the everyday body always-already contains the potential for movement read as dance.
Spatially, the use of a hallway maps onto notions of transition and the everyday. Dancers move between two studios, one dark and one light, via a hallway. The everyday space of the hallway, one where the dancer is typically no longer dancing, becomes another setting for the performance. At times the camera rests here to watch dancers perform in the studio with the outline of the door framing its gaze. Emblematic of Cunningham's use of chance, the everyday, and Atlas' approaches to the video-dance, Channels/Inserts acutely questions what constitutes the body-in-dance and how it is to be represented.
Choreography: Merce Cunningham. Direction/Editing: Charles Atlas. Dancers: Karole Armitage, Louise Burns, Ellen Cornfield, Susan Emery, Lise Friedman, Alan Good, Neil Greenberg, Catherine Kerr, Chris Komar, Judy Lazaroff, Joseph Lennon, Rob Remley, Robert Swinston, Megan Walker. Music: 'PHONEMES,' David Tudor. Assistant Director: Elliot Caplan. Camera: Charles Atlas, Elliot Caplan, David Kendall. Stage Manager/Gaffer: Martin Cabot. Key Grip: Stuart Posin. Assistant Camera: Robert Tattersall. Sound Recordist: Greg Curry. Artistic Advisor: Mark Lancaster. Costume Design: Charles Atlas. Set Construction: Martin Cabot. Makeup: Yolanda Hawkins. Video Recordist: Jenny Kinder. Animation Assistant: Carol Mazurek. Opticals: World Effects. Sound Mix: Empire Recording. Administration: Art Becofsky, Michael Bloom, Martha Lohmeyer. Grips: David Crane, Judy Ferguson, Ed Pei, Jamie Silverstein, Robert Schweber. Production Assistants: Neil Adams, Dianne Cabot, Monique Ernst, Marybeth Hughes, Rochelle Kalish, Elayne Kling, Erica Lansner, Ayelet Sela, Lynn Spano. Post-Production Assistants: Kyle De Camp, Amy Joelson, Andrea Wisser. Special Thanks to Garret Brown.
This film made possible in part by grants from: The National Endowment for the Arts, The Prospect Hill Foundation. Filmed at the Merce Cunningham Dance Studio. Westbeth, January, 1981.
Copyright © 1982 The Cunningham Dance Foundation, Inc.