What I Am Working On
By Emily Coates





Emily Coates with Yvonne Rainer, studying Xerox copies of 1965 photo documentation of her “Parts of Some Sextets” for a 2019 revival of the dance commissioned by Performa 19. Baryshnikov Arts Center, June 2019. Photo by Simon Gérard.


I tend to work on many different kinds of projects at once—in both the “analog” and digital realms of performance, with outcomes that may take the form of live performance, writing, or film, or some hybrid of these media. Often, my work is inspired by different performance histories, which become a point-of-departure or material for reinterpretation. These projects feed my teaching in various ways, not least in my belief in relentless and voracious interdisciplinary (transdisciplinary, metadisciplinary) practice, which underlies every course I teach, and in my emphasis on history as a through-line and foundation for contemporary artistic practice.

Over the summer, I worked with the choreographer and filmmaker Yvonne Rainer, an artist I’ve performed with for many years, on a reconstruction and reimagining of her 1965 dance “Parts of Some Sextets.” The original cast included dance luminaries Steve Paxton, Lucinda Childs, and Deborah Hay, and the visual artists Robert Morris and Rauschenberg—hard to get more “cross-disciplinary” than embedding the visual artists in the piece itself. The project will premiere this November 15-17 in the Performa 19 Biennial.

I’m also developing an experimental film with the filmmaker John Lucas, centered at Yale’s Wright Laboratory. As one outcome of a yearlong residency I’ve had at the Lab, the film will collide dance artists and scientists in conversation and collaboration.

In a third project this fall, I’m creating a tribute to Oskar Schlemmer’s dances for the Performa 19 Gala. Schlemmer is a Bauhaus artist whose work should be of great interest to anyone working across performance, visual art, and architectural disciplines.

Lastly, I’m currently a Dance Research Fellow at the New York Library for the Performing Arts at Lincoln Center, where I’m working on an archive called the Khmer Project, which gathers oral histories on Cambodian classical dance. This work relates to a larger research project I’m working on about touch-points between dance and science.

My fall courses, THST 395/ART 389a Postmodern Dance and THST 427/AMST 349 Technologies of Movement Research, directly link to these various endeavors. Among the many wonderful aspects of teaching is the opportunity to push forward the questions and inquiries that drive me most, nourished by the remarkable community of interdisciplinary artist-scholars at Yale. This is the community that CCAM fosters. What a joy!



Emily Coates has performed internationally with New York City Ballet, Mikhail Baryshnikov, Twyla Tharp, and Yvonne Rainer. Her choreography has been commissioned and presented by Danspace Project, Performa, Baryshnikov Arts Center, University of Chicago, Ballet Memphis, and Works & Process at the Guggenheim, Yale Art Gallery, and the Wadsworth Atheneum, among other venues. Recent commissions include her first evening-length work, “Incarnations” (2017), and “A History of Light” (2018), developed with Josiah McElheny, both at Danspace Project/St. Mark’s Church. Upcoming projects include a revival of Rainer’s “Parts of Some Sextets” (1965) for the Performa 19 Biennial. She is associate professor in Theater and Performance Studies and director of dance studies, with a secondary appointment in Directing at Yale School of Drama. With physicist Sarah Demers, she is coauthor of Physics and Dance (Yale University Press 2018).