CHARLES MOULTON

CHOREOGRAPHER 




Charles Moulton has been in the world of dance and performance since childhood.  As a choreographer he has a long and impressive list of wide ranging of work, and is a prolific player in what we today call american post-modern choreography. We wanted to give ROOM to Charles while focusing on a dance project that has truly stood the test of time.


Ball Passing began as a performance between 3 dancers in 1979. Throughout the 70’s/80s, Charles and his collaborators would perform this piece in bars and clubs all over New York City as well as on theatre stages. The piece has since expanded to include over 5,000 people from all walks of life. This project is a clear example of collaboration, a simple but loaded practice that challenges us to coordinate and move in perfect sync with each other. What began as a dance between a few performers grew to be a profound example of group dynamics at its most aligned.


When we asked Charles who his influences were he named his cousin Ginger, who does one woman shows at nursing facilities. He also lists his father Vaudeville-dancer, Robert Moulton, his choreographic collaborator and wife, Janice Garrett, as well as Mother Nature, Merce Cunningham "for teaching me how to make art" and John Cage "for teaching me how to play chess". 


Charles life and work led to many encounters along the way. Weather you are the leading artist or a regular joe, community and collaboration is essential.  We spoke to Charles about the dynamics in making and developing Ball Passing and the ever important role of creativity in his life.

BIOGRAPHY



Charles Moulton is an award-winning Choreographer, Visual Artist and Writer living in Oakland, California. He has created works on dance companies all over the world and is particularly known for his signature work Ball Passing which can be performed by dancers and non-dancers alike.  His visual art has appeared at galleries in Oakland and at the Center for Creative Photography in Tucson, AZ.  He began his career dancing with Merce Cunningham, is a Founding Co-Director of Performance Space 122 and is currently Co-Artistic Director of Garrett + Moulton Productions in San Francisco.


BALL PASSING 


WORDS BY CHARLES MOULTON



Ball Passing is part dance, part game and part living puzzle. It is community art that illustrates how diverse individuals can cooperate to manifest complex and interdependent structures. Ball Passing can be learned by people of all ages and ability levels and can be modified to meet the specific needs and skill sets of virtually any group of participants. 


Created in 1979 for three performers Ball Passing was an immediate critical and popular success. It is widely considered a masterpiece of post-modern dance and  has been performed by teams of 9, 18, 25, 36 48 and 60 performers – many of whom had no previous performing experience.  As Ball Passing has grown in stature and visibility, so has an awareness that the value of the work transcends “art for art’s sake”. Ball Passing participants learn relational and social tools that are deeply engrained in human nature but that we do not often experience in western culture. The will to cooperate – to work together to accomplish a goal that is larger than the sum of our individual efforts defines our humanness as much as competition or conflict.  This ‘cooperative impulse’ is at the core of Ball Passing and is particularly relevant in our fragmented socio-economic environment.


Ball Passing is grounded in the basic act of passing a ball from one person to the next. Teams of participants, organized in groups of three, stand in rows on bleachers and pass brightly colored 4″ nerf balls, creating complex visual and temporal patterns. The action of passing a ball is extremely simple, yet the organization of the work – the rhythmic patterns and physical configurations – are exceedingly complex. 

Ball Passing  is a game that we can only be successful at when all participants commit to profound cooperation and communication. 


Because of the speed and complexity involved “mistakes” are inevitable. Dropped balls are part of the game. Recovery from ‘mistakes’ is a constant challenge and  performers need to be on their toes to find solutions ‘on the fly’. Ball Passing is a constant struggle between entropy and organization—a conundrum that can only be solved by all participants working as one integrated unit.


The visual complexity, the rhythmic shifting of patterns, the surprise of dropped balls and the delight of recovery all serve to bring the audience into the game. Ball Passing is a community spectacle that has the ability to create - for performers and audience alike - a greater sense of connection and belonging.



9 Person Precision Ball Passing. 

First performed in 1982. This version performed in 2016.

18 Person All-Star Ball Passing

Performed in 1988. 

72 Person Ball Passing

Performed in 2017.

ROOM



THE JOURNEY


We asked Charles to map out his life journey.  Charle's response was very generous, full of vibrant colours and playful precision, not unlike Ballpassing.  Charlse's artistic journey has come to include a photographic and visual art expression also, below is a glimpse of this. 

Life map by Charles Moulton


Visual Art by Charles Moulton







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