Yvonne Rainer was born in San Francisco in 1934. She trained as a dancer in New York at the Martha Graham Dance School and the Merce Cunningham Dance Company and began to choreograph in 1960. She was a founding member of the Judson Dance Theater, a movement that began in 1962 and proved to be a vital force in redefining dance for the following decades. Starting in 1968, Rainer began to integrate short films into her live performances and, by 1975, had made a complete transition to filmmaking. She has since completed seven experimental feature films, and, in 1997, retrospectives of Rainer’s films were held at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art and the Film Society of Lincoln Center in New York City.
In 2000, Rainer returned to dance with a commission by the Baryshnikov Dance Foundation for the White Oak Dance Project titled, After Many a Summer Dies the Swan (2000). Most recently, she choreographed AG Indexical, with a Little Help from H.M. (2006), a reinterpretation of George Balanchine's Agon; RoS Indexical (2007), after Vaslav Nijinsky’s Rite of Spring; and Spiraling Down (2008), a meditation on soccer, aging, and war. In 2010, Yvonne Rainer: Dance and Film, the first major European survey of Rainer’s work was presented at the Tramway in Glasgow, Scotland. A premiere collection of Yvonne Rainer’s poetry, Poems is newly released by Badlands Unlimited (2011).
Rainer is the recipient of numerous awards, including two Guggenheim Fellowships (1969, 1988), three Rockefeller Fellowships (1988, 1990, and 1996), a MacArthur Fellowship (1990–95), and a Wexner Prize (1995). She currently lives and works in California and New York.