In 1994. Robert Ellis Dunn penned a letter to Curtis Carter, director of Marquette University's Haggerty Museum in Milwaukee, Wisconsin regarding his interest in video dance. It read:
“I have had an active interest in videodance for more than 10 years. In the spring of 1984 I inaugurated a graduate course in videodance, with the collaboration of the Departments of Dance and Communications, at Southern Methodist University in Dallas. That same summer I delivered a lecture presentation of the work of 5 videodance artists at New York University, under the sponsorship of the Laban/Bartenieff Institute of Movement Studies. At California State University, Chico, in the fall of 1984, I gave a short experimental intensive in capturing videodance, and planning appropriate experiments in editing the material after I went back to New York City. In the spring of 1986 I taught a course involving students of the Dance, Music, and Visual Arts Departments of the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, issuing in a 25-minute stage presentation combining electronic musical instruments and dance in live performance and digitally transformed video imagery, both previously prepared and from two live cameras in real time hooked up to computers….My concern remains that of distinguishing the aesthetic possibilities of dance in four possible types of presentation: live performance, video documentation of live performance, videodance, and live performance with accompanying video imagery."

In response, Carter planned an exhibit for 1996-1997 at the museum. Although the exhibit took place, Dunn never saw it, due to his death in July 1996. To demonstrate Dunn's interest in capturing dance on video, seven videos donated by his widow Gretchen Dunn have been digitized and placed in the University of Maryland's Digital Collections platform for digitized archival materials. By using the links provided here, you can stream the full videos.


1. Dunn teaches a workshop at University of Wisconsin - Milwaukee, 1994

While in Milwaukee, Robert Ellis Dunn allowed graduate students to videotape his workshop, following which they produced two edited videos. This first one is titled: Robert Dunn - Choreographer. On the video there is very little voiceover, but there is the voice of Dunn speaking about improvisation and a bit of history. He defines the difference between improvisation and choreography as: "improvisation is making it up as you go along. Choreography is when you can remember it and teach it. I like to have these silly definitions." Dunn admits that it is best when you can capture improvisational movement on video for future reference. Dunn notes that there is a form of internal awareness in improvisation: "getting messages about when to stop doing one thing and do another. You just do it by Zen." Film credits are:

Director, Camera, Editor: Matt Chernov

Music: Paul Gaudynski and Tony Finlayson

2. Dance Workshop UWM, undated

A second video from the University of Wisconsin - Milwaukee has only one view of Dunn, sitting in a chair, and no voice over. The workshop participants are improvising in groups and 'performing' for one another. Credits are:

Choreographer: Robert Dunn

Video Director: Matt Chernov

Camera: Matt Chernov, Molly McCoy, Yasuhiro Ikeguchi, Jerome Fortier

Editing: Matt Chernov, Terry Beck

Music: Paul Gaudynski, Tony Finlayson

3. Kitchen Interview

On June 26, 1993, Robert Ellis Dunn sat at a kitchen table and chatted with Meg Schrank, Judy Steele, Betty Saluman, and Cate Deicher, giving an informal interview—really an autobiography—on his work and life. Topics included Dunn's experiences with Merce Cunningham and John Cage, his work with the Judson Church workshops, and his study of the Laban/Bartenieff Movement Systems (including discussion of the Diagonals and the Dimensional Cross).

4. LIMS Tribute to Robert Ellis Dunn Part 1

In 1993, the Laban/Bartenieff Institute of Movement Studies (LIMS) hosted a performance event, reception, and panel discussion to honor Robert Ellis Dunn. Two videos contain seven performances by former students and colleagues of Dunn's. The event was emceed by Richard Bull, who interspersed the performances with letters written by those who could not attend.  Although much of the speaking is difficult to hear, the performances often reference Dunn's influence as teacher, mentor, and friend. Part 1 contains four dances:

Landings: Choreography/Dancers by Anita Feldman (former assistant to Dunn) and Gary Schall; Costume by Denise Mitchell; Tap Device developed by Anita Feldman

Exile: Choreography by Regina Miranda with Dancers Marina Martins, Tymberly Canales, Marcia Monroe, Carole Lee

After the Fact: Choreography by Philip Grosser (former Dunn student at Teachers College, NY) for Dancer Susan Haigler-Robles (former UMD student)

The Return: Choreography by Nancy Zendora; Music by Brenda Hutchinson; Danced by Marie-Baker-Lee

5. Tribute to Robert Ellis Dunn Part 2

Snow Angel: Choreography/Danced by Kathy Wildberger; Music by Arvo Pärt (Fratres); Costume by Jeff Duncan and Lisa Mandle; Consulting by Robert Ellis Dunn [the credits on the video are incorrect per Ms. Wildberger's name and the composer]

Elegy: Choreography/Danced by Phoebe Neville; Music by Faruck Tekbilek

Making and Doing: Conceived and Directed by Richard Bull; Music by Chopin (Fantasie - Impromptu OP 66); Danced by David Brick, Peentz Dubble, Vickie Kurtz, Richard Bull

6. Judson Church Panel, March 17, 1993

At the end of the benefit performance Martha Eddy announced the panel discussion to be held the following day at the church. The panelists were Martha Davis, Pauline Tisch, Simone Forti, Martha Eddy, and Robert Ellis Dunn. The audio is extremely difficult to hear.

7. CageFest, May 6, 1989

As part of Cage-Fest, a 3-day event hosted by the Strathmore Museum in Rockville, Maryland, Dunn was front and center. Among the events captured on this film is a panel discussion on Cage, spiritual connections, the universal as it was understood in the 1960s, and confrontational politics. Dunn mentions both Cage and Irmgard Bartenieff during the discussion. And in a statement made during the 3-days Dunn spoke of their influence, stating: 'In each case the influence was so deep and pervasive that it is impossible to lift it out for objective examination. But this has the advantage that it eludes the necessity for self-examination as possible "heresy" from the "doctrines" of my teachers.'

Although we don't often have the chance to see choreography by Dunn, this video includes the world premiere of an 18-minute piece, Music for piano + 2 Dancers, he choreographed for Cage-Fest Set to a work in the style of Cage, there is no attribution given, but it can be assumed that the music score was also composed by Dunn, who was a student of Cage's and the fact that there is no listing of a work by that title in catalogues of Cage's compositions. Directed by Marilyn Boyd DeReggi, the performance includes two dancers -- one male, one female -- clad in the Cunningham style of unitard. The Cunningham-esque movement is slow with partnering work at the fore. The pianist stands at the keyboard, playing both keys and strings. Although you can see the entire video via the link above, you can see the dance work here: