Composing, choreographing, drawing: in the archives of Lucinda Childs 
New file

In 2016, the American choreographer Lucinda Childs donated her archives to the CN D, which at the time was preparing the exhibition Lucinda Childs: Nothing Personal 1963-1989, co-curated with the Thaddaeus Ropac gallery. The importance and richness of the choreographer’s archives, as they appear in the detailed inventory now available online (, prompted the CN D to facilitate access to the choreographic scores and other graphic documents in the collection. This file thus presents a selection of resources (drawings, diagrams, sketches) linked to the composition of the works and essential for their understanding. They shed light the general structures of the pieces, the writing processes, the geometric tools and mathematical games that enabled the invention of her dance.

This practice of choreographic writing is present from early on in Lucinda Childs’ career when she began composing pieces at the Judson Dance Theater in the 1960s. At the time it took the form of simple sketches of the steps, sometimes accompanied by texts (spoken on stage) or other working documents (plans or lists). From the 1970s onwards, the choreographer turned her attention to the composition of everyday movements, which she choreographed in silence, in a serial and repetitive manner. She then developed more complex graphic material by creating fully-fledged choreographic scores. Some pieces give rise to a diagram from which, in a serial process, the choreographer develops her score. The relationship between this geometric writing and the embodiment of dance, in this repetitive and minimalist era, is strikingly obvious.

In 1979, Lucinda Childs created Dance in collaboration with composer Philip Glass and visual artist Sol LeWitt, initiating a series of artistic collaborations. For the first time, Lucinda Childs composed her dance to music, and the musical and choreographic structures proved to be closely connected. The score, of a large scale and diverse in its forms, is structured in five parts, as it was presented at the premiere of the piece.

From the late 1980s onwards, Lucinda Childs increasingly used classical steps and technique while maintaining the dynamics and repetitive structures of the pieces of the previous decades.

She remained faithful to the practice of drawing, which truly was a compositional tool for her. The archives preserved at the CN D today offer a unique insight into the work and creativity of this major choreographer who, as early as 1979, stated that what interested her “was not the way in which you execute movement but the topography of the dance” (cited in “La longue marche de Lucinda Childs”, Marcelle Michel, Le Monde, 21 November 1979).