April 27, 1982
Dancer, choreographer, director and composer John Wilson lectured on Dada in the Rose Parlor. A founding member in 1956 of The Joffrey Ballet, Wilson was a scholar of the Dada and Surrealist movements, and was at Vassar to do a Dada performance for a class in German expressionism. "A barrage of music, erratic both in content and style filled the room," wrote Kirsten Gantzel '90 in The Miscellany News. "French, German, and gibberish twittered and twirled, tumbling from his elastic lips. Like a happy insane bird he sat, perched upon his stool, shouting and whispering letters and punctuation.
"Suddenly he was up and running about and peeking under my dress. I indignantly slapped him away, whereupon he promptly grabbed a poster and held it up. Mixing and matching words such as NUN, MUFF, BLACK and others from the poster, he proceeded to recite in a sweet bright tone a concoction of obscenity.
"I looked around me. This was the Rose Parlor. And this shocking man was my cousin."
A student and theoretician of Dada since his 1975 musical setting, choreography and performance of The Gas Heart (Le Coeur à gaz, 1921) by the Romanian-born French author and performance artist Tristan Tzara, Wilson traced for his Vassar audience the development of Dada from its birth in Swiss cabarets during World War I, describing the art form as "a state of mind. It was NOT a movement.... Dada was a protest of war...of everything—any closed system that existed at that time, political or religious." His performance was "not a reconstruction of the cabaret," Wilson declared, "I am performing the original work of the Dadists, one could call it a 'cabaret collage' in the spirit of the cabaret." The Miscellany News
Wilson performed his Dada program at Performance Space 122 and The Knitting Factory in New York and in theaters in France and Germany. In 1986 he formed the New York-based company DaDaNewYork.