IDENTIFICATION AND BIO:
James Tyler was a choreographer, dancer, composer, and teacher who is perhaps best remembered in the Bay Area for co-founding the contact improvisation group Mangrove. Founded with Byron Brown, John LeFan, and Curt Siddall in 1975, the group drew national attention for presenting the improvisational form in a theatrical context. In a 1984 interview with the San Francisco Chronicle's Kate Regan, Tyler says, "Mangrove began as a series of Saturday afternoon jam sessions, but was always concerned to be a performing group...We wanted to give form to improvisation." In 1977, members of Mangrove joined artists Sarah Shelton Mann and Freddie Long to form Mixed Bag Productions, which produced Tyler's City/Island Variations in 1984. A suite of songs, and dances inspired by the fables of James Thurber, City/Island Variations juxtaposed desert island fantasies with the anxiety of urban life. Tyler directed and performed in the piece as well as composing the music with Kurt Wortman.
Tyler earned a degree in music from Bennington College before he moved to New York, where he danced in the companies of Charles Weldman and Erick Hawkins and choreographed his own work. He was co-artistic director of Pauline de Groot Dance Group in Amsterdam before arriving in the Bay Area in 1971 (de Groot was Tyler's former wife). In San Francisco, Tyler performed in the choreographic work of LeFan and Long, as well as with Ruth Zaporah and several local theater companies. He died of AIDS-related causes.
KEY CONTACT PERSON(S)/EXECUTOR OF ESTATE:
John LeFan, colleague and friend
499 Alabama #120
San Francisco, CA 94110
HUMAN REPOSITORIES OF THE WORK
(name and contact info, relationship to the artist and the work, assessment):
John LeFan (see above)
(location, format, condition, assessment):
None identified of Tyler's work, however, the Dance Collection of the New York Performing Arts Library (NYPL) does hold videorecordings of Tyler dancing in works by choreographer Erick Hawkins.
(location, format, condition, assessment):
The San Francisco Performing Arts Library and Museum (SFPALM) maintains a photograph file in the Mangrove collection c. 1975-1980 (8x10, 5x7 and smaller, all BW), studio photographs and performance documentation. Photographer credits: James Armstrong, Michael Beck, David Minehart, and Simo Neri (most photographs do not include photographer credits). Additionally, John LeFan holds photographic documentation of Tyler's work with Mangrove and Mixed Bag Productions.
(location, type [including notes taken by dancers], assessment):
(scores, sound recordings, set/costume designs):
(location of newspaper clippings, printed programs, press releases, notes, files, diaries; assessment):
SFPALM holds three folders containing clipping, photograph, and publicity files in the Mangrove collection c. 1977-[ongoing]. Additionally the NYPL holds a clipping file for James Tyler.
(archival assistance? storage? other?):
OTHER RELEVANT INFORMATION:
PARTIAL LIST OF WORKS
(title, premiere date, music, production notes, performers):
Refrain (1963?)Judson Hall, New York
--numerous improvisations with Mangrove from 1975-c.1985
City/Island Variations (1984)conceived and directed by Tyler; performers: Shelley Bod Durant, Ann Elliott, Mary Lynne Forcade, Mary Alice Fry, Karen Geiger, Teri Hill, Craig Landry, John LeFan, Freddie Long, Kristina Peterson, Elizabeth Spicuzza, Tyler, and Kenny Vetter, original music: Tyler and Kurt Wortman; Southern Exposure Gallery, San Francisco
- Armstrong, James. 1977. "In Contact with Mangrove." Dance Magazine (December).
- Booth, Laurie. 1980. "Mangrove at Jackson's Lane and the Place." New Dance 16:16.
- Felciano, Rita. 1993. "Around San Francisco: Money Blues and Dancing." DanceView 10:4.
- Foster, Susan. 2001. "Closets Full of Dances: Modern Dance's Performance of Masculinity and Sexuality." In Dancing Desires: Choreographing Sexualities On and Off the Stage, Jane C. Desmond, ed. Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, pp. 147-207.
- Brown, Byron, Charles Campbell, and James Tyler. 1978. "An Interview with Mangrove," [and] "One Man's View from the Grove." Contact Quarterly 3:3/4.
- Marks, Marcia. 1963. "Deborah Jowitt, James Tyler, Carol Wallace: Judson Hall [New York] March 8, 1963." [dance review] Dance Magazine (May).
- Novack, Cynthia. 1990. Sharing the Dance: Contact Improvisation and American Culture. Madison: University of Wisconsin Press.
- Regan, Kate. 1981. "Mangrove's New and Delightful Series." San Francisco Chronicle (31 January).
- __________. 1984. "James Thurber Inspires Dancer James Tyler." San Francisco Chronicle (9 December).
- Ross, Janice. 1980. "San Francisco: Mangrove." [dance review] Dance Magazine (November).