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#16 Ray

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Posted 12 March 2009 - 12:33 PM

Like LiLing, I want to place much of my scorn on Carlson's PR coarseness;


Ray, Carlson says that it was Cunningham’s decision, so perhaps it’s not quite fair to dump all on the PR guy, although taking the flak is a flack’s job.


Carlson is not just a "PR guy"; he's the company's ED (although point taken, Leigh, about him acting as the "enforcer"). While I'm sure this decision did emanate from MC, this rhetorical buck-passing only makes things worse for the dancers' reputations.

#17 Ray

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Posted 12 March 2009 - 12:51 PM

Since Farmer, Squire and Mizuta are refusing to comment we'll never know.

Perhaps we'll know after their contracts expire. Like others here I feel for the dancers and wish that instead of insinuating that they no longer meet Cunningham's standards, Carlson had praised them for their talent and long service. If the difference between the salary levels of junior and senior dancers is so slight, that suggests that Merce really was motivated by artistic considerations, and that he probably has his eye on new dancers he wants to make room for. Carlson could have stated or implied as much. On the other hand, people who really care about dance, including directors of other companies who might be hiring, won't be misled by the press release, and will know how good these dancers are. The dancers' reputations won't be damaged.

It is cruelly ironic that Farmer is being let go after being featured in Mondays with Merce. But the dancers knew they were entering a field where there is little job security. Would we call it autocratic for the founder and director and chief artistic force of an artistic enterprise to fire an employee who he'd hired, say, only 2 years ago? Sentiment suggests that because these senior dancers have dedicated long careers to his work, they deserve to be kept on, to be taken care of financially. That seems only decent. But for how long? And what if (through no fault of their own) they really don't any longer stimulate the choreographer's imagination when he's making new work? Isn't that part of what they were hired for? I feel bad for the dancers and I'll miss seeing Farmer, but I don't know how to answer those questions.

We're in synch, kfw, about Carlson's rhetorical missteps, although I'm less sanguine about their effects on the dancers' reputations. As far as your second 'graph, I have to disagree and say that what we know about the context just doesn't support the ambivalences you raise about the firings here. Just because the field is inherently insecure doesn't justify an AD's unstable actions. And thanks, miliosr, for pointing this out:
"To my knowledge, Limon and Ailey never experienced any major disruptions in terms of former dancers being frozen out. Whatever other difficulties they may have experienced, the former dancers were always on hand to pass on the works to the next generation(s). And so, whether the works are to your taste or not, you can still see them as living things close to the creators' intentions rather than as museum pieces."

#18 bart

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Posted 25 April 2009 - 03:02 PM

Here's more on the future of the Cunningham company and rep. It's from the 4/25/09 Economist (not available on-line).

Confined now to a wheelchair, Mr. Cunningham spends less time than he used to liaising with his collaaborators, and it is starting to show. The weaknesses of "Nearly Ninety" are mostly the result of decisions made by other people, which has led to concerns about what will happen to the company when Mr. Cunningham is no longer there to guide it.

Mr. Carlson says that he and the company's board have been working with Mr. Cunningham on a plan that will respect his legacy and keep as much of his work intact and available to the public as possible. "We won't follow the same unfortunate path that the Graham company followed, by any means," Mr. Carlson explains, referring to the bitter legal battle over the rights to Graham's dances after her death in 1991. The plan will be announced later in the summer.

For the moment Mr. Carlson is giving nothing away. But it's also nothing like any other single choreographer company has ever done before," he adds.


Note: I've divided this into 3 paragraphs and added the bold face type..

#19 kfw

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Posted 25 April 2009 - 04:53 PM

Confined now to a wheelchair, Mr. Cunningham spends less time than he used to liaising with his collaaborators, and it is starting to show. The weaknesses of "Nearly Ninety" are mostly the result of decisions made by other people, which has led to concerns about what will happen to the company when Mr. Cunningham is no longer there to guide it.

Very interesting. I guess that explains the following from Macaulay in the Times recently (italics mine):

One day, when Mr. Cunningham dies, it may be dismaying to observe how these people (or their successors) govern his artistic estate. Who could keep his company going posthumously and successfully? I will say here and now that once the Master departs, I would like his company to give a world tour and then disband. Just now, however, Mr. Cunningham is alive.



#20 GWTW

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Posted 25 April 2009 - 11:17 PM

In an interview with the Israeli newspaper Ha'Aretz (April 24, 2009), Carlson was asked about his involvement in 'Nearly Ninety' and his answer leaves little room for ambiguity. He said: "More than usual, since Merce concentrated on the choreography and we needed someone to liase between him and the artistic collaborators around the world and between him and the technical team. There are many elements in this piece, and it was important that there be one person connecting between everybody, in case a change in one element were to effect the other elements."
He was also asked about the firing of the three dancers and he gave quite a long answer. Among other things he said "I was only the messenger, Merce fired them... From my perspective, it's wonderful that at 90 Merce is still thinking about who he wants to continue working with..."

* The interview must have been conducted in English and translated into Hebrew for the article. The excerpts are my translation from the newspaper.

#21 Ray

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Posted 26 April 2009 - 02:26 PM

In an interview with the Israeli newspaper Ha'Aretz (April 24, 2009), Carlson was asked about his involvement in 'Nearly Ninety' and his answer leaves little room for ambiguity. He said: "More than usual, since Merce concentrated on the choreography and we needed someone to liase between him and the artistic collaborators around the world and between him and the technical team. There are many elements in this piece, and it was important that there be one person connecting between everybody, in case a change in one element were to effect the other elements."
He was also asked about the firing of the three dancers and he gave quite a long answer. Among other things he said "I was only the messenger, Merce fired them... From my perspective, it's wonderful that at 90 Merce is still thinking about who he wants to continue working with..."

* The interview must have been conducted in English and translated into Hebrew for the article. The excerpts are my translation from the newspaper.


Very telling. I'm skeptical enough about the "artistic decision" excuse; this doesn't make me like it any better. That firing to me is miles away from any sort of artistically responsible "thinking"; the more I think about who he fired, actually, the less it makes any sense--even economically. Thanks so much for translating and posting this!

#22 bart

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Posted 26 April 2009 - 03:07 PM

The following gives an interesting perspective on Carlson's point of view.

"I was only the messenger, Merce fired them... From my perspective, it's wonderful that at 90 Merce is still thinking about who he wants to continue working with..."

"Wonderful" is a word one doesn't often gets to hear when people talk about firing long-term associates.

#23 Simon G

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Posted 26 April 2009 - 03:26 PM

The pathos in that paradox runs through Nearly Ninety, but not all the dancers discover it. To find the freedom – and humanity – in Cunningham’s steps, the dancer has to be deeply familiar with his enormous lexicon. A 12-year veteran of the troupe, Farmer has that advantage, as does Daniel Squire, in his 11th year.

Last month, Cunningham told Farmer and Squire he wouldn’t need them any more. It was a Lear-like gesture. Someone should have taken the role of Cordelia and told the old man he was wrong


Apollinaire Scher in the Financial Times on Nearly Ninety



The most interesting and telling parallel Carlson draws in the continuation of the Cunningham legacy after his death is with Martha Graham and Ron Protas; however he's most definitely misplaced if he's alluding merely to the legal trials in 2001, the rot with Protas set in in the early 70s when Graham near death and depressed about the end of her dancing career entrusted to Protas a rank opportunist total control over her company. There was a Soviet like purging of her board, her company and anyone who was considered superfluous or counter Graham.

Carlson brings up the Protas/Graham relationship unbidden and the subtext of his growing influence along with Robert Swinston is unavoidable; like Scher's eloquent line Cunningham would seem to have his very own Regan and Goneril, an allusion one feels Scher drew intentionally.

The problem of the Cunningham legacy is prevalent, he's 90, whether he lasts another five years or ten is moot, there is a jostling for pole position, to be the torch bearer for the legend. The most egregious aspect of Carlson is his totally arrogant abnegation of himself, his strong avowal that he is nothing but a mouthpiece for a living genius, a legend and by proxy he bestows upon himself the status of demi God or at the very least cup bearer for the God. But it's false in so many respects, because he comments on the decision, "it's wonderful Merce still wants to work with new people" - the careers of three sublimely talented and gifted artists having been brutally terminated, whose combined committment to the company and Cunningham aesthetic totals almost 40 years is in the wording of Carlson a wonderful new direction.
To use in such a callous fashion a brutally joyous adjective to describe what must be horrendously painful for three artists who have given so much of their lives is an indication of just how high a regard Carlson holds himself in. To do so publically in the press how untouchable he sees himself as.

Moreover for someone who insists he's merely Cunningham's mouthpiece he does like to talk about Cunningham a great deal, in programme notes, in interviews the legacy it would seem is his and his alone - I would argue that the legacy is in the flesh, muscles and minds of the dancers.
There is a troubling parallel in the work Carlson is undertaking for Cunningham (mondays with Merce, the hiring of costumers, designers, musicians) and the work that Protas undertook with Graham. Cunningham now has Romeo Gigli, Graham had Halston, Cunningham has Mondays with Merce, in an interview with Nancy D'Alva Carlon claims part ownership of this attempt to record Cunningham for posterity, likewise in the 70s & 80s Protas sought a $1,000,000 grant from the National Endowment of the Arts to record Graham's entire ethos and repertory on video and even went so far as to try and copyright the technique.

Because the fact is that in ensuring your position of legacy carrier you ensure your "immortality" by proxy, think Martins with Balanchine, Protas with Graham - you have carte blanche to destroy, rebuild (insert appropriate verb here) that company in your image whilst attesting that your vision is the departed genius' vision, the torch was passed to you after all, wasn't it? A few years ago there was an interview with Swinston in Dance Insider in which he spoke about how Cunningham has now entrusted the legacy of the repertory to him, Cunningham had originally intended Chris Komar, a lovely and gentle man, for this job, until his death in 1996 of course rendered this option impossible.

The thing is Cunningham does seem to have a history of being unable to terminate dancer relationships cleanly, in Carolyn Brown's Chance and Circumstance, she details the unhappy parting of Remy Charlip, Judith Dunn amongst others, but Holley Farmer in her recent Time Out NY interview attested to the unprecendented brutality of her, Squire and Mizuta's firing; an act of Lear-like hubris and cruelty.

With Mizuta, Farmer and Squire gone, so too goes the last remnants of a particularly talented and intelligent era of Cunningham dancers, those hired in the 90s. Now no dancer was hired before the start of the new Millennium, the majority with the three replacements in the last three years. I can understand that with the prevalent mood of one's mortality that fresh blood must seem incredibly important, but I think this confuses new with young. Farmer, Squire and Mizuta are dancers who reveal new aspects of Cunningham's technique afresh with every performance.

The exception of course is Robert Swinston, the designated artistic heir, who at nearly 60 has been a member of the company since 1980 and who continues to dance a repertory he is incapable of bringing any breadth, flexibility or daring to any longer. If anyone saw Cunningham himself at the end of career, where in his 70s and 80s, crippled by arthritis he would still insist of shuffling onstage and interacting with the dancers, they'll know how painful it is watching such vitality of dance scaled down to a minutaie of greatness. Cunningham at least was creating movement his body could cope with Swinston insists on dancing works such as Ocean, Biped, Split Sides works which demand a body which jumps, extends, dances; and this is the problem I have with the current crop of dancers apart from Julie Cunningham (and the three soon to be ex dancers) it's a dumbed down company. Most interchangeable, and with a couple so poor in technique you wonder if someone's having a laugh at your expense.

The other problem I have with the current state of the company is the newest choreography - Cunningham was at his greatest a man who never pandered to popular opinion, to perceived notions of what was in, what was fashionable, he explored and couldn't care less about the consequences - his latest choreography has been neat, serviceable and at times with Xover as if a very talented craftsman/dancemaker has decided to plagerise or create a dance in the style of a Cunningham piece.

Something happened around 2004, he started losing his last great personalities, there was still Mayselle Fason, Ashley Chen, Cheryl Therrien, Derry Swan, Glen Rumsay, Thomas Caley, Mandy Kirscher, - real ballsy gutsy, sexy dancers, dancers who Farmer, Mizuta & Squire were a part of. If anyone remembers those phenomenal dancers of the 80s and early to mid nineties Finlayson, Komar, Kovich, Lent, Barrow, Ogun, Gafner etc you'll know how much has been lost already by the current line up.

Put simply this is no longer a company I'd travel out my way to see, or pay top price to see: a company is its dancers and the dancers are for the most part sadly second rate and perhaps that's why the current pieces such as Views on Stage, Xover, Nearly Ninety are drawing such ambivalent or rather polite reviews - the tools, the dancers are neutered both technically and artistically - it's Cunningham Lite, a style that an opportunist can claim to make a legacy from. Certainly the dances I saw with original casts and loved deeply are shadows of their former selves in the hands of their new interpretors.

The thing is Protas was a long time coming 30 years, before his toxicity reached critical mass, and like the Carlson, Swinston he'd learned that if you don't want to be disposed of it's best to make yourself indispensible. Because everyone is aware, though they never say it in so many words, that the party really is nearly over, and getting rid of the best and most interesting guests and inviting new, younger members to attend doesn't make it a fresh, new crowd, nor does it inject new life - it just makes the end when it comes that much more of a whimper.

#24 Ray

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Posted 27 April 2009 - 04:33 AM

Thanks, Simon, for all of the insight! I just finally read Macauley's preview, and this part caught my eye:

" I would also guess that “artistic reasons” for the sackings do exist in Mr. Cunningham’s mind. They can hardly be grievous: Ms. Farmer was evidently his favorite female dancer earlier this decade, and all three dancers performed valiantly this year. But they have probably outlived their chief usefulness to him. Having absorbed the freshness and openness of his company’s younger members and RUG apprentices, his appetite has moved on.

Genius does not keep functioning successfully without occasional ruthlessness. Within any great creative temperament there will always be a force that says, “My will be done.” Even in the 1950s and ’60s Mr. Cunningham — otherwise a genial and courteous man — often hurt dancers by not taking their feelings into consideration. Those feelings were not his business."


Here AM offers my second least-favorite excuse for bad artistic decisions: Genius Must Be Ruthless. Ruthless acts have a justifiable context, usually, often to resist institutional inertia or right some artistic wrong. But MC is not Richard Wagner, and this is 2009 not the 1850s. This is an excuse often trotted out in defense of The Great Choreographer by many critics who don't want to sully their hands with extra-aesthetic investigation. Reeks of a bad middlebrow mix of Nietzsche, Jung, and Ayn Rand. I don't buy it anymore; sometimes people exercise power just because they can.

I think, once again, that Simon is reading the politics of the situation right. Even if not--that is, even if MC did issue these decisions brutally--couldn't it be that they are BAD ones (shock and horror--the genius is making poor choices!)? And if so it's sad that Carlson et al. couldn't intervene to mitigate their brutal effects on these amazing artists (whom we know to be amazing also from the Company's own press materials).

#25 Helene

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Posted 27 April 2009 - 06:46 AM

Here AM offers my second least-favorite excuse for bad artistic decisions: Genius Must Be Ruthless. Ruthless acts have a justifiable context, usually, often to resist institutional inertia or right some artistic wrong... sometimes people exercise power just because they can.

I think the latter is more common than the former.

Merce Cunningham can do what he wants, as can almost any epophynous company. The Mission Statement of the Cunningham Foundation is:

to support, sustain, and further the wide ranging creative activities of Merce Cunningham - choreographer, teacher, and artist - and of the Merce Cunningham Studio. This includes the Merce Cunningham Dance Company, the Cunningham Repertory Group, the Studio Performance Program for Young Artists, Educational Outreach, and the Merce Cunningham Archives.


Unless there is a restricted donation to any one of these entities/programs, or restricted within one of them, he takes people's money to support his work, which means his artistic decisions, regardless of how arbitrary or justified. He can be vindictive and lose our respect; if the Foundation has an endowment, those donors are stuck with the decisions, no matter how they disagree. For money spent and future money, they can disagree with their pocketbook, and fans can disagree by not buying tickets.

An institution like NYCB has a different mission. The resident genius can make the same artistic decisions, which can be accepted or denied. What Balanchine did to Suzanne Farrell when he fired her essentially for not marrying him was unconsionable, without any artistic pretext given, and that Board said "fine". If the genius doesn't like it, s/he can leave: Balanchine famously said more than once that he would leave the Company and start another little one. By that point, there would have been many people who would have funded him to do whatever he pleased.

#26 Simon G

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Posted 27 April 2009 - 09:29 AM

Merce Cunningham can do what he wants, as can almost any epophynous company. The Mission Statement of the Cunningham Foundation is:

to support, sustain, and further the wide ranging creative activities of Merce Cunningham - choreographer, teacher, and artist - and of the Merce Cunningham Studio. This includes the Merce Cunningham Dance Company, the Cunningham Repertory Group, the Studio Performance Program for Young Artists, Educational Outreach, and the Merce Cunningham Archives.




Hi Helene,

I think you mean eponymous? Please do correct me if I'm wrong. I also feel you've got the wrong end of the stick regarding this discussion.

No one argues Cunningham's right to fire or hire as he sees fit - though I dare say Farmer, Squire and Mizuta have a number of choice things to say about the matter. Farmer in this months Time Out NY spoke eloquently about the unprecedented brutality of this firing in the Company's history and the betrayal - and I think that says more about the nature of this incident as its first hand than conjecture of what's right or wrong by laymen.

The main bug bears seem to be:

a) The impugning of three very great dancer's artistry by a company spokesman.
b) The hubris of Carlson within the press.

And this I think is the most interesting fact all press concerning Cunningham recently has been obsessed with his mortality (at 90 that's hardly surprising) and the legacy of his work once he dies.

The obvious jostling for pole position within the company administration is prevalent in all articles concerning the company, specifically with the great power Carlson & Swinston now hold. This is a topic of concern for dance journalists, that much is obvious and the continued referencing of the sackings of Farmer, Squire & Mizuta are constantly brought up in relation to this as a sign of things to come.

Cunningham is speaking rarely he now seems to let Carlson and Swinston do a great deal of the talking specifically in relation to that future and this is worrying in as much as Carlson, for someone who would have us believe is merely a mouthpiece, does like to bang on about his input artistically to the new work in terms of designers, music etc

And again this is I think a problem with Cunningham's new work, when Cunningham was exercising total control in his heyday he didn't give a toss about the cult of cool, indeed design was for him a secondary concern, ditto music - now we have a stellar range of "collaborators" Rome Gigli, Radiohead, Sigur Ros, Sonic Youth; there's something desperate about this, it's not contemporary it's a bit like a faded Southern Belle dressing younger than her age to attract an audience that was never really that interested anyway - perhaps that's the issue, in reliquishing his legacy to the torchbearers Cunningham is becoming the Blanche Dubois of contemporary dance; desperate to seem up to date, anachronistic where once he was timeless - and of course dance companies like ageing pros are absolutely dependent on the kindness of strangers.

Also the quality of the press and the Foundation spokespeople has a constant quality of eulogy, no one can seem to mention Cunningham without banging on about the legacy. And whoever holds the reins now it can be pretty certain that he will be the one with total control of the organisation once Cunningham is dead. And this is the issue - the company will be one of dancers chosen by Swinston, an aesthetic which is increasingly prevalent in the current crop of performers who just aren't a patch on those great dancers of the very recent past. And this is part of the problem for me, in recent years one can see how underpowered and shapeless many of the new dancers are - Swinston was never a technically great dancer, and had a rather wishy washy stage quality, I never saw him perform until he was in his late 40s and even then he was too old, but I have seen video of him from his younger days, and even then he was a second fiddle dancer to the company's stars - and in the new dancers many of whom have been sourced and presented by Swinston I, at least can see that they're on a model of what he was - the diversity of the company is becoming lost. I wrote before about Biped, with it's marvellous original cast, now being washed out and bland to the point of homogyny.

Administration, design, programming - if one imagines all those fundamental topics which Carlson speaks at length about professing to be nothing but a mouthpiece for the master, goodness knows what will come out of the little laddie's mouth, what decisions he'll make when the master is dead - and this time there'll be no right of reply because he'll be speaking posthumously for a dead master.

Helene, you're dead right, if you don't like it you don't have to go; and that's a decision I've been taking of recent, I was toying with the idea of going to Madrid to see Nearly Ninety for the purpose of seeing Farmer, Squire and Mizuta one final time and didn't - a few years ago there'd have been no question of not going. And Cunningham for all its reputation and brilliance is a small company, based around the vision of one man - more people have seen Susan Boyle perform I Dreamed A Dream in the space of a week than will have seen Cunningham in 60 years or indeed even know who he is.

Because very soon the company is going to have to move forward without the man at the helm - and what we'll have is a diumverate deciding what will be seen, who will dance it and what the purpose of a creative life which lasted over 70 years really meant, really intended - and that is the antithesis of Cunningham's lifetime philosophy.

#27 Helene

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Posted 27 April 2009 - 10:09 AM

Hi Helene,

I think you mean eponymous? Please do correct me if I'm wrong.

Yes, my fingers got away from me.

I also feel you've got the wrong end of the stick regarding this discussion.

Are you arguing that Cunningham is not making the artistic decisions himself? If so, then there is an issue, and possibly a legal one: using the money from the Foundation for a mission other than the stated one, on which people/foundations donate and get tax deductions, when he is not acting as the artistic director.

If you are not, but are arguing legacy, that's a separate issue. If Cunningham himiself fired three senior dancers for whatever reason, and left the communication to a mouthpiece, I can argue that it was a mistake, I can argue that it was an unprofessional way to handle it in the press, but, ultimately, the buck stops with him, however old he is.

#28 Simon G

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Posted 27 April 2009 - 10:46 AM

Hi Helene,

I think you mean eponymous? Please do correct me if I'm wrong.

Yes, my fingers got away from me.

I also feel you've got the wrong end of the stick regarding this discussion.

Are you arguing that Cunningham is not making the artistic decisions himself? If so, then there is an issue, and possibly a legal one: using the money from the Foundation for a mission other than the stated one, on which people/foundations donate and get tax deductions, when he is not acting as the artistic director.

If you are not, but are arguing legacy, that's a separate issue. If Cunningham himiself fired three senior dancers for whatever reason, and left the communication to a mouthpiece, I can argue that it was a mistake, I can argue that it was an unprofessional way to handle it in the press, but, ultimately, the buck stops with him, however old he is.



No, I don't mean at all that Cunningham is not making the artistic decisions - however Carlson has spoken about how much of the administration of the artists he takes over to allow cunningham to choreograph. What I do wonder is in interview Carlson has referred to it was his idea to suggest several collaborators to Cunningham, such as Radiohead, Ros etc and brought there material to him - the ultimate decision was of course Cunningham's as to whether or not to use them but at his height Cunningham wasn't about plugging in to what was cool, of the moment and indeed in that respect both Radiohead, Sonic Youth and Sigur Ros were pretty old hat by the time Cunningham came around to them.

And once again I have to say for someone who insists he is nothing more than a conduit for Cunningham, Carlson really does like to talk, a lot. That statement about how "wonderful" it is that Cunningham wants new people in the company, was crass and a grossly insensitive breach of protocol; he's commenting on termination of contracts and sackings after having impugned the fired artists work and artistry - again in the press. And it shows how unassailable he views his position as being as he obviously has no fear of any backlash from such tactless public acts and statements.

The wording of a Foundation Mission statement in regards to Cunningham's life's work can be interpreted any way to mean any one thing and that's what gets me in the deluge of material written about Cunningham in which members of the board, Carlson, Swinston etc speak at length, it's always about legacy, carrying forward, etc the unspoken statement being he can't last that much longer and it's true, he can't. But what gets me is the quality of eulogy, the element of picking over bones before the carcass has even croaked - and this rather nasty feeling that it's a banquet for opportunists who are claiming their rights as heir apparent.

The FT article I used the quote from is most specific in the effect a great deal of the current state of affairs is having on what it should all really be about - the company and specifically the dancers. There's absolutely no way that anyone who has viewed the company for any length of time can deny that something's really really gone wrong here.
When I was reading the biog of the most recent male addition to the company before I saw him perform I noticed he hadn't had a full dance training but began by joining his university's dance department - what's more he was taken into the company without having been a member of the repertory understudy group - I was expecting that maybe he was a late-starting dance prodigy, but when I saw him perform what was clear was the huge holes in his technical armoury, poor inflexible feet, bad use of turnout, a deeply inflexible lower back which meant that in arabesque his whole torso dips to attain leg height, he takes tension into his shoulders and as such the carriage of his neck and arms is distorted - and if this was Cunningham's decision, as I'm sure it was that this was a dancer who was to carry on his legacy fine, but I don't want to pay to watch him dance. I find that three of the women are bizarrely identical and another two are ... well to put it mildly, not pleasant dancers (for me) to watch, only Julie Cunningham and Holley Farmer belong to that incredible panopoly of brilliant female dancers which the company is rightly famous for. And yes again this is just my view, but for me the joy of watching contemporary dance is the performer and the current crop take that joy away.

The artistic direction of this late stage Cunningham is for me something I don't like watching; like I said I find it neutered, Cunningham Lite and if that's the direction his legacy is to continue in once he's gone, isn't one I intend to support by ticket sales. I used to have raging arguments with people who insisted that Cunningham was soulless, unengaging, emotionally vapid work, now I couldn't because that's how I feel increasingly, especially when revisiting those works I really really loved with the new crop of dancers.

#29 kfw

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Posted 27 April 2009 - 11:23 AM

One has to read only a very little about these firings before discovering that the fired dancers had been favorites of Merce and that the "artistic reasons" given for their dismissal amount to his following his usual pattern and, as it were, falling in love with new dancers while falling out of love with others. Carlson's statement could have been more sensitively written, but no one who follows the company would believe dancers were at fault; I find it hard to imagine he's so dumb as to try to impugn their reputations.

And it is wonderful that Merce is still creative enough to want to work with new people. Carlson was emphazing the positive.

#30 Simon G

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Posted 27 April 2009 - 11:48 AM

One has to read only a very little about these firings before discovering that the fired dancers had been favorites of Merce and that the "artistic reasons" given for their dismissal amount to his following his usual pattern and, as it were, falling in love with new dancers while falling out of love with others. Carlson's statement could have been more sensitively written, but no one who follows the company would believe dancers were at fault; I find it hard to imagine he's so dumb as to try to impugn their reputations.

And it is wonderful that Merce is still creative enough to want to work with new people. Carlson was emphazing the positive.



KFW,

I'm sorry but that really is a rather superficial reading of the facts. How many people care enough to read about Merce Cunningham or even know who he is? We gloss over arts items in the papers, an item where three artists have their artistry called into question and where it's stated they're sacked for falling short in the NY Times, is grossly damaging. "Dumb"? well yes, in his orginal statement back in march he directly impugned their reputations, by stating the sackings were a result of their artistry.

Read Farmer's interview with Time Out NY to see how she feels about it. The statement by Carlson regarding "wonderful" new directions coming so soon after this bombshell while the three dancers are still contracted to perform has the quality of kicking someone when they're down - it's cruel, it's unnecessary. The fact he felt compelled to do it is not "wonderful".

Dance isn't about statements read in papers and those who have followed the company and know these three dancers both as audience members and dance professionals have been dismayed by this grossly unfair treatment.

What gets me, and in light of Helene's comment is the fact that the company is putting out a great deal of mission statements, this talk of legacy - it's something that many a company has faced when the founding choreographer dies/retires. And the pattern is painfully commen - mission statements issued, recordings made, key people put in key positions with their eye on guarding the legacy - and I have to say it's BS. The legacy is in the bones, the technique, the muscular memory the individuality of the dancers who carry that legacy in the lives they've given to the choreographer.

In the restaging of Crises this was blindlingly obvious when Farmer came on stage, she was dancing the Viola Farber part, she was herself Holly Farmer, but there was a deep intelligence in her way of interpreting Farber and Farber's technique, her personal idiosyncracies as a dancer - that's what a legacy is, not a mission statement and not statements to the press from administrative bods claiming ownership of continuance of legacy.

Carlson in bringing up Graham while deftly failing to mention Protas must be aware of the allegations or implications of this, but again anyone who has seen the company, followed them for years doesn't have to debate this point - the artistic direction which is increasingly being followed tells in the dancers; and sure it's up to Cunningham to follow whatever path he feels he has to in this final stage but it's not one which I enjoy watching. And again there's a legacy an audience member who's love a company for years - and one who no longer gets enjoyment from the company.


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