Get us in your inbox

Search
Ballet West's Joshua Whitehead in Summerspace
Photograph: Courtesy Beau PearsonBallet West's Joshua Whitehead in Summerspace

Immersed in Merce Cunningham

New York City celebrates the centennial of dance master Merce Cunningham this spring

Written by
Kurt Gottschalk
Advertising

A defining innovator of contemporary dance, Merce Cunningham was born a century ago this year. Along with his partner in life and art, composer John Cage, and their friend and accomplice, painter Jasper Johns, Cunningham helped create an aesthetic that dominated artistic expression in the 1950s and 1960s. The everyday was celebrated: Silence could be music, an American flag could be a painting, and the chaos of a city sidewalk could be a dance.

Cunningham’s choreography discarded narrative, emotional suggestion and even coordination with music, focusing instead on the physical form and movement of his dancers. He democratized his art by eliminating any notion of a focal point—the dance was happening everywhere. “The dancers are not pretending to be other than themselves,” he once said. “They are, rather than being someone, doing something.”

A Merce Cunningham Dance Company production could be a bustle of activity, with no center and no star. Yet many of Cunningham’s dancers have gone on to create major work of their own. To honor his ongoing legacy, his centennial will be marked with events around the world and in the city he called home. Here are some of the highlights.

Merce Cunningham Centenary Events

  • Dance
  • Contemporary and experimental
  • price 2 of 4

92Y marks the 100th anniversary of the birth of dance innovator Merce Cunningham with a month of performance and visual arts. The opening weekend is devoted to Cunningham dances performed by New York Theatre Ballet, New World School of the Arts, Melissa Toogood and Calvin Royal III. Subsequent weeks offer world premieres by companies founded by erstwhile Cunningham dancers: Douglas Dunn, Dylan Crossman, Jonah Bokaer and Ellen Cornfield. (James Klosty’s photographs of the Cunningham company are on view at 92Y through April 2.)

Advertising
Advertising
  • Dance
  • Contemporary and experimental
  • price 2 of 4

On what would have been Cunningham’s 100th birthday, this celebration of his work is being mounted in New York (at BAM), London (at the Barbican) and Los Angeles (at UCLA’s Center for the Art of Performance). More than two dozen dancers in each location perform a collection of 100 brief solos, all between 30 seconds and four minutes long. Plus, the musical director is composer John King, a longtime Cunningham collaborator.

Advertising
Recommended
    You may also like
    You may also like
    Advertising

    The best things in life are free.

    Get our free newsletter – it’s great.

    Loading animation
    Déjà vu! We already have this email. Try another?

    🙌 Awesome, you're subscribed!

    Thanks for subscribing! Look out for your first newsletter in your inbox soon!