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Remy Charlip, RIP

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So sorry to post here that Remy Charlip is dead at age 83. RIP.

Mr. Charlip, who grew up in Brooklyn, N.Y., devoted his youth to investigating the performing, literary and graphic arts. He studied design at New York's Cooper Union School of Fine Arts, but became part of American dance history when he attended North Carolina's Black Mountain College. In that hotbed of experimentalism, Mr. Charlip became one of the founding members of the Merce Cunningham Dance Company, and remained with the organization for 11 years, as both dancer and set and costume designer, succeeded by Robert Rauschenberg.

A friend of the board forwarded this appreciation by Paul Parish in The Bay Area Reporter.

Charlip invited us to attend to the world inside, especially in the moments we aren't supposed to notice. "Waking up, cooking your breakfast, going to the toilet can be dances," he said. Crossing the border from sleeping to waking, from hunger to satisfaction, from distress to relief– these are important daily transitions. Charlip came up with rites of passage to honor these changes of psychic state, to make modest liturgy for the times when the body tugs at the mind and asks to be paid attention to. Getting out of bed could be a dance. Indeed, now his "Dance in a Bed" is being danced all over the world, using the brilliant drawings he created, put together any way the performer wants. The 16 figures he drew may be used in any order, with any transitions, using any music, performed anywhere the dancer likes. He called this an airmail dance, and he drew many of them.

NYT obit.

Rita Felciano's appreciation is posted in the Links for August 21.

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Thanks, Amy, for posting that performance of the 'Dance in a Bed.'

Elizabeth Zimmer has written a very fine piece http://www.dancemagazine.com/in_memoriam/4597 in the latest Dancemagazine that told me things I'd never heard before. And somethings I knew, but she captures them well: e.g., Born in Brooklyn to Russian immigrants, Charlip attended Cooper Union, but soon stopped painting and began taking dance classes. “I thought dancers were free spirits,” he told Jennifer Dunning of The New York Times in a 1977 interview. “The one way I could be a free spirit was to study dance. Little did I know how tyrannical and puritanical they were.”

THat's absolutely typical of his wit, which is to say, what he said was TRUE.

He was a polymath, he wasn't just a modern dancer. His imagination burst out in many ways. He was very generous towards fellow-spirits. Nobody else has mentioned that he discovered the ballet choreographer Julia Adam, who'd done a little piece for a SanFrancisco Ballet summer workshop that was brilliant and fresh and hilarious, for a show that was just supposed to give off-duty something to kill a long summer. Remy made us all go see it. Her sensibility is a lot like his.

I took him once to see The Nutcracker. We met on the steps of the Opera House, and he had a little baggie with some little dime-store grey-ish candies in them; They looked like gum drops or orange slices, but kinda lavender. "What's that?" "These are sugar plums."

Who knew? REMY knew. He knew all kinds of things like that. They were wonderful.

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When the American Dance Festival was located at Connecticut College, the Cunningham Co. was in residence, performing and teaching classes. We students of course idolized the dancers. Remy, the only man in the company besides Merce, zipped around campus on a little baby blue moped. I regularly found myself sharing the whirlpool with Remy in the physical therapy facility, located some distance from the main campus buildings. He joked and kept me from feeling sorry for myself and my poor aching tendons. Best of all he gave me a ride back to the cafeteria. I, a lowly student, was the envy of the school!

Remy was indeed a polymath. His wit, zany imagination and gifts in visual and performing arts all came together in The Paper Bag Players, the extraordinary children's theatre company he started with Judith Martin. The company, founded in 1958, is still providing children with the joy of live imaginative theatre. A lasting legacy from Remy Charlip.

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