Lesson Four: Just Pass It

Unit of Study: Interactive Gateway

Theme: Props

Sub theme: Tasks

Grades: 9-12th grade

Materials: CD player, music, word list, scissors,

basket, a large box, pillows (students can supply their own),

1 folding chair per student, large boxes

It was really fresh and new for me to actually just pick up a pillow and sit it on my lap instead of trying to do some fancy spin and just do it like a natural action. I realized that was more interesting."

- Carrie Le Baron

Brief Description of the Lesson:

In this lesson the students are introduced to choreographer Yvonne Rainer, a founding member of the Judson Dance Theater. Students view Chair/Pillow (1973), listen to the performance notes, and learn about the meaning of the work by Yvonne Rainer. In Chair/Pillow Yvonne Rainer investigated minimalist dance using two props (a chair and a pillow). Students explore passing a prop from one person to the next person in a task-like manner. These movement explorations require students to develop group communication, focus, and problem solving skills.

Learning Outcomes:

Upon the completion of the lesson, students will be able to:

demonstrate different ways to transfer a prop both stationary and while moving through space move together as a group with a prop, while solving a movement problem make individual movement choices while remaining focused, aware and connected to a group


The Lesson:


a.) Sharing of cut-up poems: In small groups, students share their cut-up poems and discuss the effects the element of chance had on this activity.

b.) Discussion: Students view interviews by Yvonne Rainer and Pat Catterson discussing the work of Chair/Pillow and the period of time. Then students read an interview of Anna Halprin by Yvonne Rainer regarding tasks (Appendix E).

Movement Exploration #1: Transferring a Prop

a.) Transferring a Prop: Students divide into three groups and create three lines. A prop (box, pillow, or basket) is handed out to the head of each line. The dancers transfer the prop to the dancer behind them without affective dancey quality. The students are instructed to consider the props characteristics focusing on the elements of weight, space and relationship. Students transfer their prop down the line and back up again with functional quality.

b.) Collectively Transferring a Prop: Students divide into three groups and each group is given a large box and a problem to solve while moving from spot A to spot B in the room. Problems to solve include: transferring a prop without using hands, transferring a prop with everyone connected to it all times using different body parts, and transferring a prop with eyes closed.

c.) Sharing Transferring a Prop: Each group shares their solution.

d.) Discussion: The instructor leads a group discussion on the issues each group faced when solving the problem.

Movement Exploration #3: Chairs and Pillows

a.) Each student gets a chair and a pillow. Students are instructed to explore the physical characteristics of the two objects without being dancey. Students should explore the objects in a matter of fact way focusing on the elements of weight, space, and relationship. Students examine all the ways they can sit in the chair, move the chair, rest on the pillow, use the pillow, and move the pillow.

b.) Students create a list of at least three different functional activities utilizing the chair and pillow.

c.) Students perform their three functional activities for their peers and students give feedback.

d.) Students view Yvonne Rainers Chair/Pillow on the Interactive Gateway Website and then consider the different ways Yvonne Rainer used the chairs and pillows in functional ways.


Closure: Discussion

a.) The students discuss The Object, an excerpt taken from Time and the Dancing Image by Deborah Jowitt (Reading #4). The students offer examples of how Judson Dance Theater choreographers define the types of props that were used. Students also discuss the challenges they faced in using the props in a matter of fact manner.

b.) Student Reflection #4: Students write the following reflection, Define the following words as they relate to Postmodern dance:

task prop focus fuction


Assessment Strategies:

Did students find functional ways to explore a box, basket, chair and pillow? Did students collaborate with peers to solve a movement problem involving the transference of a prop? Did students cut-up poem demonstrate another method of chance?


Preparation for this Lesson:

Reading Assignment #4: Students read The Object, an excerpt from Time and the Dancing Image by Deborah Jowitt and read Yvonne Rainers Bio on the Interactive Gateway Website. Students turn in Assignment #4.

Lesson Resources:

Tasks, an excerpt from Yvonne Rainer Interviews Anna Halprin edited by Michael Kirby (Appendix E)


Homework Assignment #5: Find one item at home (strainer, luggage, utility box) and write a paragraph describing the objects characteristics (weight, space, and relationship to other objects) and how these characteristics contribute to the manipulation of the item. Write a summary on how they could use the item in future choreography. Students need to bring in a sports photo to class for Lesson #5.


Interactive Gateway Website. Yvonne Rainers Bio.

Jowitt, Deborah. Time and the Dancing Image. Berkely: University of California Press, 1988.

Schechner, R, Kirby, M (eds). Rainer, Yvonne: Interviews Anna Halprin. Tulane Drama Review Vol No 2 (special issue), 1965.