1/2″ Open Reel 2
Building 18, Granville Island
Building 18, Granville Island, 2021.
Photo: Paul Wong
Building 18 (also know as Performance Warehouse and now a parking garage) was situated on the then-industrial site on Granville Island. It housed Explorations Workshops [est. by Director John Crawford in 1976 with a LIP grant] and Helen Goodwin’s One World Festival Society in the mid-1970s. Both created opportunities for local performers to work and train with national and international artists that they would not otherwise have access to.
Goodwin integrated video artists and documentation with these training programs. Performance Tapes was the video production and distribution wing of Building 18’s projects. These included documentation of workshops organized or sponsored by Goodwin or Exploration Workshops. Wong and Kenneth Fletcher were hired as videographers. Wong was also tasked with producing a distribution catalogue.
The following edited videos and unedited documentation were all recorded as part of Goodwin’s Performance Tapes project. Featured performers are dancers Valerie Hammer, ReUnion (Nitta Little, Steve Paxton, Curt Siddall, Nancy Stark Smith) and mask, mime, and clown, Ron East.
Performance Tapes Documentation
Found stored in Wong’s videotape boxes: an early, incomplete draft of the Performance Tapes distribution catalogue with project and video descriptions.
The Performance Tapes
Note to Paul Wong from Helen Goodwin regarding tapes.
The Performance Tapes, 1976
Collaborating Artists Valerie Hammer & Paul Wong
Dancer/Choreographer and Video Artist
The Performance Tapes was a 1976 project conceived and produced by Helen Goodwin and funded by Canada Council. Goodwin commissioned four collaborations between local video artists and national and international performers.* Paul Wong was paired with American dancer/choreographer, Valerie Hammer.
Born in Montana, Hammer earned a Fine Arts degree from New York University and toured the US and Canada with Gus Solomon’s dance company in 1973. In 1974, she received a National Endowment for the Arts Choreography Fellowship and began her solo career. Hammer, in a 1975 interview, described her philosophy of dance as understanding movement as a statement in itself, and her body a “living sculpture”. She was also a member of Theatre of the Open Eye, New York.
Both commissioned videotapes (below) were recorded in the rotunda of the Museum of Anthropology (MOA) at the University of British Columbia. The new MOA was designed by Vancouver-born architect, Arthur Erickson, and opened May 30, 1976. Wong and Hammer’s collaboration took place less than a month after the structure’s opening. The then-empty rotunda was awaiting emplacement of Raven Discovering Mankind in a Clam Shell, the large-scale sculpture by Haida artist, Bill Reid.
*Also in the CDMLA: Video artist Bill Day’s recordings of his collaboration with Theatre of the Open Eye. Their experimental “total theatre” piece, Gauguin in Tahiti, was sponsored by One World Festival. Day’s unedited videos commissioned by The Performance Tapes project, were recorded during rehearsals in Hawaii, are part of the Bill Day fonds. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org to view.
July 1976 7:31 min.
A video dance collaboration choreographed for video by Paul Wong and American dancer-choreographer, Valerie Hammer. A minimal improvisational dance performed with a round concrete gutter. Hammer was 25 at the time of this recording.
July 1976 7:33min
A video dance collaboration of Paul Wong and Valerie Hammer, choreographed for video.
Performance Tapes Distribution, 1977
Videographers Paul Wong and Kenneth Fletcher
Steve Paxton, ReUnion and Contact Improvisation
Jams, Performance and Interview
Steve Paxton is one of the earliest innovators of, and often referred to as the founder of, Contact Improvisation (CI). He and his longtime videographer, Steven Christiansen, attended the 1973 Matrix International Video Festival and Conference in Vancouver where Christiansen screened two videos of his dances. The first was Paxton’s iconic and formative Magnesium (1972), recorded at a Grand Union residency at Oberlin College, Ohio; the second, Paxton #8 (1972), a performance recorded at the John Weber Gallery (NY). Both videos were part of the inaugural deposit of videos to the Video Inn Library and widely viewed by the public and dance community.
Jane Ellison and Peter Bingham recollect that the first time CI was presented in Vancouver was at a workshop with Nancy Stark Smith (1952-2020) in January 1976. In June 1977, Paxton and Stark Smith returned to Vancouver as part of a North American west coast tour by their CI group, ReUnion. Other ReUnion dancers were Stark Smith’s Bay Area colleagues Nitta Little and Curt Siddall. The Vancouver series, co-ordinated by Michael Seamus Linehan, and documented by Wong, included jams at the Arcadian Hall and a CI demonstration/performance at the Scottish Auditorium. Linehan, Bingham and Ellison and most of the people attending the jams were working at the time with Linda Rubin. Her dance company, Synergy, had worked out of the Western Front studio from 1974, and, by 1976, from the top floor of the Arcadian Hall on Main Street (between 6th and 7th Avenues).
The Western Front continued offering training in CI by local instructors and acclaimed Vancouver dancers Jane Ellison (Western Front; Studio 58) and Peter Bingham (co-founder Fulcrum ; EDAM ), and others.
In addition to the CI recordings, Wong and Paxton collaborated on Asteroid (Accession #693), a 19-minute, solo performance of improvisational movement by Paxton, created specifically for video and choreographed in the editing stage.
Special thanks to Jane Ellison, Peter Bingham, and Western Front Archive.
PHOTO: Steve Paxton at the 1973 Matrix International Video Festival, Vancouver Art Gallery, Vancouver, Canada.
Photographer: Kazumi Tanaka.
Contact Improvisation ReUnion Jam
Featured video image: Steve Paxton (left) and Curt Siddall (right).
Contact Improvisation ReUnion Jam Tape 1
Saturday, March 5, 1977 32:03mins
Contact Improvisation ReUnion Jam Tape 2
Saturday, March 5, 1977 25:34mins
Interview ReUnion Rapping and Moving Downstairs (Tape 1)
Western Front studio
March 2, 1977 15:39mins
Footage shot by Kenneth Fletcher at a 2-camera shoot for an interview with the Re-Union members on Contact Improvisation.
ReUnion Interview (Tape 2)
Western Front Lux
March 2, 1977 1:03:08
The Reunion team are interviewed by Helen Goodwin with Wong asking questions from behind the camera. They discuss CI, the forms that have influenced it or are similar to it, and where it differs; their publication, Contact Quarterly (to 2020), attempting to find a language for the form, and their relationship to the audience. For the first half of the tape they are seated on overstuffed chairs and couches or the floor. For the second half, they are practicing CI while discussing the relationship of the feeling of CI with childhood memories of movements and physical interactions.
Scottish Auditorium ReUnion 2
Scottish Auditorium Sunday, March 6, 1977 29:48
Scottish Auditorium ReUnion Studio Camera
Scottish Auditorium Sunday, March 6, 1977 1:03:20
Theatrical Clowning Workshop
Ron East – mask, mime, clown, and educator – conducted a two-week, full-time workshop (Monday, May 23 – Friday, June 3, 1977) on theatrical clowning for Explorations Workshops. East was a graduate of the Performance Program at Ecole Internationale de Theatre Jacques Lecoq, Paris, France, in 1971-1973, and in 1977 was the Director of Mime Company Unlimited in Toronto. These institutions were significant to the development of mime, clowning and bouffon and its subsequent spread across Canada. * (See Ron East’s Academic CV) The following videos are all unedited documentation.