Yvonne Rainer’s Diagonal (1963), Trio A with Flags (1966/1970), and Chair-Pillow (1969) were incorporated into the Bloodlines project in the 2016-2017 season, the third iteration of the initiative.
Learn more about Yvonne Rainer and Bloodlines.
These works were performed March 28-April 2, 2017 at The Joyce Theater in NYC on a program with works by Steve Paxton and Anna Halprin, and Stephen Petronio’s world premiere of Untitled Touch.
Read a review of the entire evening.


Choreography: Yvonne Rainer
Lighting: Joe Doran
Staging: Pat Catterson
Performed by: Ernesto Breton, Davalois Fearon, Kyle Filley, Jaqlin Medlock, Tess Montoya, Megan Wright

TRIO A WITH FLAGS (1966/1970)

Choreography: Yvonne Rainer
Music: “In the Midnight Hour,” The Chambers Brothers
Lighting: Joe Doran
Staging: Pat Catterson
Performed by: Davalois Fearon, Kyle Filley, Jaqlin Medlock, Tess Montoya, Nicholas Sciscione, Joshua Tuason, Megan Wright


Choreography: Yvonne Rainer
Music: “River Deep, Mountain High,” Ike and Tina Turner
Lighting: Joe Doran
Staging: Pat Catterson
Performed by: The Company

The staging of works by Yvonne Rainer was made possible, in part, by a commissioning grant from New York State Council on the Arts with the support of Governor Andrew M. Cuomo and the New York State Legislature.


from the Bloodlines Room

explore our archives for additional context & history


Yvonne Rainer, (born November 24, 1934, San Francisco, California, U.S.), American avant-garde choreographer and filmmaker whose work in both disciplines often featured the medium’s most fundamental elements rather than meeting conventional expectations.

Rainer moved to New York City in 1957 to study theatre. She found herself more strongly drawn to modern dance than acting, however, and began studying at the Martha Graham School and later with Merce Cunningham. Rainer was one of the organizers of the Judson Dance Theater, a focal point for vanguard activity in the dance world throughout the 1960s, and she formed her own company for a brief time after the Judson performances ended. Rainer was noted for an approach to dance that treated the body more as the source of an infinite variety of movements than as the purveyor of emotion or drama. Many of the elements she employed in the early 1970s—such as repetition, patterning, tasks, and games—later became standard features of modern dance.

Her best-known dance, “Trio A,” (1966) a section of a larger work called The Mind Is a Muscle (1966–68), consisted of a simultaneous performance by three dancers that included a difficult series of circular and spiral movements. It was widely adapted and interpreted by other choreographers. Rainer choreographed more than 40 concert works, including Terrain (1963).

Rainer sometimes included filmed sequences in her dances, and in the mid-1970s she began to turn her attention to film directing. Her early films do not follow narrative conventions, instead combining reality and fiction, sound and visuals, to address social and political issues. Rainer directed several experimental films about dance and performance, including Lives of Performers (1972), Film About a Woman Who… (1974), and Kristina Taking Pictures (1976). Her later films included The Man Who Envied Women (1985), Privilege (1990), and MURDER and murder (1996). The last-mentioned work, more conventional in its narrative structure, is a lesbian love story as well as a reflection on urban life and on breast cancer, and it features Rainer herself. Her film work received several awards, and in 1990 she was a recipient of a MacArthur Foundation award.

In 2000 Rainer resumed her career as a choreographer, and her subsequent dances included Spiraling Down (2008), Assisted Living: Do You Have Any Money? (2013), and The Concept of Dust, or How do you look when there’s nothing left to move? (2014).


from a curtain chat between Stephen Petronio and Wendy Perron…

Wendy Perron: I wondered how you felt about bringing a piece that was made in Judson Memorial Church and then done in a lot of informal spaces, bringing it to the stage.

Stephen Petronio: We were all excited about it. I mean of course I asked Yvonne. Yvonne picked the works with me that were showing. Trio A is famous for draining any emphasis or inflection out of the movement. No facial expression. One movement is added next to each other that are unrelated. That is something that I learned from Trisha Brown, although Trisha, who was my mentor, of course, made a language out of it and Yvonne refused to make a language out of it. She took ordinary movements and sewed them next to each other. So I thought, you know, I had to do that one. I asked for the flags because I was thinking we would be celebrating Hilary Clinton, but, it is even more relevant now.

WP: Just to explain, the flag version came from something that was called the People’s Flag Dance at Judson Memorial Church which happened because people were getting arrested for “desecrating the flag” around the time of the Vietnam War so there was this People’s Flag Dance where they had 200 works of art and Yvonne’s contribution was to do Trio A in this manner.

SP: For me, having the flag against the body is the most relevant. I want to own my patriotism at a very tough time in history and putting the flag next to the most precious thing that we have, our bodies, it’s an important and beautiful thing to do.



Chair Pillow by Yvonne Rainer at Petronio Residency Center


Chair Pillow by Yvonne Rainer at Petronio Residency Center



Rainer’s rarely performed Diagonal (1963) opened the program, featuring 6 dancers enacting a playful improvisational score in ever-changing groupings. At the 15-min marker, a 7th dancer yelled “Time!” to initiate a transition to Trio A with Flags (1966/1970), Rainer’s iconic work performed once silently by 3 dancers in the nude, with an American flag tied around their necks, then performed again by 4 fully clothed dancers to the music of the Chambers Brothers. Chair-Pillow (1969), set to music by Ike and Tina Turner, followed. Stephen Petronio performed this work with the full company.


…from a curtain chat between Stephen Petronio and Wendy Perron

Stephen Petronio: Well Diagonal is a system. The dancers learn X number of phrases of movement, I think 13 phrases, from Yvonne… one is walking, two is running. So she is very specific about what the movement is and that they go from diagonal to diagonal. There’s a set of rules for how they can use them. They call each other on the spot, that’s all improvisation. So it’s basically giving power to the dancers to make the dance fresh every night. So is it a dance? What is it, I don’t know. It’s different every night and I love it.

Wendy Perron: For me, it shows how stubborn Yvonne Rainer can be because once she gets a structure, she sticks to it.

SP: And it’s fifteen minutes, it goes by the clock no matter what’s happening.

WP: But do they have an option to leave that number mid stage? Because sometimes they’re just walking around and not finishing it.

SP: They can drop after the walk, yeah.

WP: And it was part of Terrain, which was Yvonne Rainer’s first full length work which had many different sections.

SP: You know, Yvonne, and Trisha, and Steve, and Anna Halprin, are the people that changed… they broke away from Martha Graham and Merce and they began to do things that incorporated every day movement in it. And I met them at that juncture when they had blown up the dance world. So I was a young kid in college and they were in their 30’s and 40’s and I was very lucky. Steve came to teach a class where I was going to school at Hampshire College so I fell into the revolution. They basically said, “If you can define it, do it.” And that’s why I can be a choreographer because I never studied ballet, I didn’t have any training, it was very “do it yourself.”

WP: And each one of those people started at what they thought was the beginning. And that is really what made the transformation from modern dance to post-modern dance.