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Merce Cunningham Living Legacy Plan


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#61 dirac

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Posted 05 January 2012 - 12:33 PM

Graham's life and her ending did indeed contain elements of tragedy, but I would hesitate to include failure to destroy her works thoroughly enough as one of them......

#62 miliosr

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Posted 05 January 2012 - 05:05 PM

Graham's life and her ending did indeed contain elements of tragedy, but I would hesitate to include failure to destroy her works thoroughly enough as one of them......

What can I say? Tragedy, like art, is in the eye of the beholder . . . Posted Image

#63 LiLing

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Posted 06 January 2012 - 05:21 PM

I remember some years ago a critic commenting that it seemed to take about two years for new members of MCDC to look fully at home in the work. ( This was before the establishment of the repertoire understudy group but new members would have come from the advanced class at the studio which was primarily taught by Merce himself at the time.) I think the chances of rep. companies doing justice to the work are slim to none. I am dreaming thata couple of MC veterans will form a co. with dancers they train to do their own work and also some of Merce's.

#64 Quiggin

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Posted 17 January 2012 - 12:49 PM

Posted Image


Review in Artforum on the last Cunningham performances by David Velasco: "End Days"

After fifty minutes, the fourteen dancers, all dancing across the platforms, simply walked off those black Marley stages with the same quiet authority with which they’d mounted them. The lights and music quit, and that was it.

“Well, so what do you do after you’ve witnessed the end of modern dance?” a friend asked, without a trace of irony. Someone raised a glass. And suddenly it was a new year.


http://www.artforum.com/diary/

#65 miliosr

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Posted 13 March 2012 - 03:45 AM

As long as he doesn't call it the Merce Cunningham Dance Company, I don't have a problem with it. Telling that he would have to move to France to implement this:

http://artsbeat.blog...rance/?ref=arts

#66 bart

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Posted 13 March 2012 - 03:57 PM

Thanks for this wonderful discussion. The always excellent Marina Harss, dance critic for The Nation, has a new piece which addresses many of the issues raised here. Harss interviewed a number of people involved -- including Edward Swinton -- and appears to be quite familiar with Cunningham's work and the dance scene he worked in and left behind.

Life After Merce

I like the way she addresses both (or all) sides of the discussion. For example:

Despite Cunningham’s recurring use of “chance techniques” such as rolling dice, flipping a coin or using the I Ching to shuffle his choices about a dance’s movement and sequences and to dispense with the overlay of narrative, the choreographer had, by all accounts, very clear ideas about the look and feel of his dances. At the same time, he was extremely reticent about communicating this underlying vision to the dancers, preferring instead to give intricate physical instructions that were painstakingly worked out and then seared into the dancers’ brains and bodies by sheer repetition. It follows, then, that not every choice made by a dancer in his absence would be equally sound and that, over time, the accumulation of such choices would erode a dance’s underlying logic, inscrutable as it might be. This erosion of clarity over time is an inescapable problem of dance. A symphony exists on paper, the composer’s intentions clearly noted and open for interpretation by each new performer, and for study by scholars and students.


And then, the inevitable "BUT"

But a dance is an organism that morphs and grows—or usually atrophies—over time. Details are lost, transitions forgotten, and the bodies of dancers change over time with changes in dance technique and the surrounding culture. Cunningham dancers today look nothing like they did in the 1950s. { ... ]

The Cunningham dancers, while conflicted, seem to support the trust’s decision. Silas Riener, who joined the company in 2007—and who danced electrifying solos at the Armory and during the company’s final run at the Brooklyn Academy of Music three weeks earlier—told me that since Merce’s death, he doesn’t “feel like it’s the same kind of pushing boundaries, the way Merce always wanted to move forward. If it went on any longer, I would be stuck. I feel we’re going towards the end.” Daniel Madoff, a dancer with an explosive jump and an intense, deeply innocent stage presence, stressed Cunningham’s tendency to make small adjustments to the dances, to tailor roles to a dancer, which breathed new life into the material. Over the past two years, as older works have been reconstructed for the tour by Swinston and others, the dancers have faced the difficult predicament of having to decide whether to be utterly faithful to past versions of dances—essentially freezing the choreography in time—or to make choices regarding the placement of an arm, the amount of space covered or the timing of a movement that risk obscuring the choreographer’s underlying intentions and thus the work’s integrity. As Madoff put it to me, “Every time I make a decision, I run the risk of maybe doing something Merce wouldn’t have liked.”

I first read about Cunningham (probably in the Voice) in the mid sixties, when I arrived in Manhattan to go to grad school. I saw the company for the first time in what I remember as a large (and mostly empty) armory. After that, I attended one or sometimes two performances a year until the mid-80s.

My love of dance is related intimately to the way it connects to music. That has always gotten in the way of appreciating Cunningham's work as much as others do, especially after Cunningham "sliced the connection" between composer and choreographer (Joan Acocella's phrase) in the 70s.

But you don't have to warm to a person's work to acknowledge his genius. What will happen to his company -- and to the arrangements that will be made to have his dancers set his works on other companies, or on their own companies -- when the last "Cunningham dancer" is no longer with us?


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