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Merce CunninghamApril 16, 1919 - July 26, 2009


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#1 rg

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Posted 27 July 2009 - 06:13 AM

the following email has just arrived:

On behalf of the Cunningham Dance Foundation and the Merce Cunningham Dance Company, it is with great sorrow that we note the passing of Merce Cunningham, who died peacefully in his home last night of natural causes. A statement from the Foundation follows below.

The board and staff of the Cunningham Dance Foundation and the Merce Cunningham Dance Company honor the extraordinary life of our friend and mentor Merce Cunningham. Merce revolutionized the visual and performing arts – not for the sake of iconoclasm, but for the beauty and wonder that lay in exploring new possibilities. An inspiring performer and dancer into his 80s, and a visionary chorographer and dedicated teacher throughout his life, he led quietly and by example. With his partner John Cage, he opened up new ways of perceiving and experiencing the world, and his insatiable curiosity, collaborative spirit, and love of the new inspired countless artists across disciplines. Merce has left an indelible mark on our collective creativity and culture; his legacy will resonate in the dance world and beyond for generations to come.

“Merce saw beauty in the ordinary, which is what made him extraordinary. He did not allow convention to lead him, but was a true artist, honest and forthcoming in everything he did. His approach to art and life opened so many paths for others—not to follow, but to discover. The world is a lesser place without him, but without question, a better place because of him. We will miss him dearly.”
- Trevor Carlson, Executive Director, Cunningham Dance Foundation

“Merce was an artistic maverick and the gentlest of geniuses. We have lost a great man and a great artist, but we celebrate his extraordinary life, his art, and the dancers and the artists with whom he worked. To honor Merce, we plan to carry on our efforts to share and preserve his legacy, so that audiences of today and generations of tomorrow may witness the work of this legendary artist.”
– Judith R. Fishman, Chairman, Cunningham Dance Foundation


In lieu of flowers, contributions can be made to the Cunningham Dance Foundation’s Legacy Campaign for the preservation of Merce’s work. Visitors will be received in the Merce Cunningham Studio from 9:00 AM to 9:00 PM.

#2 Alexandra

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Posted 27 July 2009 - 06:45 AM

This is not unexpected news, but it is still so, so sad. Merce Cunningham was a giant and as influential a choreographer as we have seen.

#3 Leigh Witchel

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Posted 27 July 2009 - 06:49 AM

It's very sad to lose him - one of the few who could rightly be described as epochal. What an impressive career and life.

#4 abatt

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Posted 27 July 2009 - 07:05 AM

I just heard it announced on WQXR radio.

#5 Helene

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Posted 27 July 2009 - 07:08 AM

By Sarah Kaufmann in The Washington Post:
http://www.washingto...ml?hpid=artslot

By Alastair Macaulay in The New York Times:
http://artsbeat.blog...ingham-dies/?hp

Rest in peace, Mr. Cunningham.

#6 Natalia

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Posted 27 July 2009 - 09:41 AM

Very sad news. May he rest in peace.

#7 leonid17

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Posted 27 July 2009 - 10:16 AM

Deeply saddened to hear of the passing of this giant among modern choreographers.
I well remember his outstanding success in London more than 40 years ago when the audience was as distracting as the performances on stage.
Ashton who was in the audience said to Cunningham, "You are a poet, and I like poetic ballets."
Poetic, fun and last year, "Crises" came up as fresh as if choreographed in 2008 and not decades before.

#8 bart

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Posted 27 July 2009 - 11:10 AM

Like leonid, I have memories from more than 40 years ago. My first Cunningham company performance was in a large industrial loft someplace downtown, probably during the mid 60s. I seem to recall that there was a party or fund-raiser attached to the event. I wish I could remember the choreography. But I do remember the space, the energy, and the thrill of being there. In that setting, Cunningham was a magnet, drawing all eyes towards him.

Macaulay's obituary mentions the amazing coincidence of having Balanchine, Graham, Cunningham and others creating new kinds of dance right there in New York City, all at the same time. It was exciting to be an observer, even though I really hadn't a clue as to what was going on in Cunningham's work, not for a long time. But I knew (because people I trusted had told me, and because it was all so wonderful) that this dancing was an important art.

The world -- and not only that portion of it tha dances -- is smaller with his passing. Rest in Peace, Merce.

#9 Marga

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Posted 27 July 2009 - 12:00 PM

A pioneer of modern dance gone. Merce was one I thought would never die, his uniqueness placing him on a plane of existence unknown to us mere mortals.

I first began to learn from his dancers 44 years ago. It opened up an incredible world to me. He was so vital then, constantly choreographing, and his company members, when they taught class, peppered their instructions with "Merce says..." and "here Merce wants"...., etc. So exciting to remember!

The energy of the dance world at that time was centered in New York City and perpetuated through the creations of Balanchine, Robbins and Joffrey in ballet, and Graham, Cunningham, Taylor and Alwin Nikolais in modern dance. I never realized what extraordinary history was being made.

I am truly saddened by Merce's passing.

#10 Alexandra

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Posted 27 July 2009 - 02:41 PM

This piece by Alastair Macaulay, now on the FRONT PAGE! of the NYTimes (as it should be) is, I think from a quick perusal, a longer appreciation, just added an hour ago:

http://www.nytimes.c...n...tml?_r=1

#11 SanderO

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Posted 27 July 2009 - 02:43 PM

A true visionary has left the stage. Thank you Merce. That was quite a performance.

#12 Paul Parish

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Posted 27 July 2009 - 02:52 PM

Here's what he looked like in motion
pd4 from Septet, to music by Satie


This is perhaps the piece that Denby said had a "shoreless beauty." It may also be one of the pieces that Ashton found poetic. (I suspect that "Monotones" owes something to this.)

THough it looks a little like Apollo with three muses, I'm told by one who might know that Merce himself said he was Krishna with the gopis....

#13 Simon G

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Posted 27 July 2009 - 03:09 PM

This is perhaps the piece that Denby said had a "shoreless beauty." It may also be one of the pieces that Ashton found poetic. (I suspect that "Monotones" owes something to this.)



Hi Paul,

The programme at the Phoenix Theatre in London that Ashton saw and made his remark "You are a poet, and I like poetic ballets" about, consisted of Nocturnes, Winterbranch and Story. It's the same programme that MacMillan walked out of halfway through.

I just loved Cunningham, he was the absolute best.

#14 Alexandra

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Posted 27 July 2009 - 03:20 PM

Here's what he looked like in motion
pd4 from Septet, to music by Satie


This is perhaps the piece that Denby said had a "shoreless beauty." It may also be one of the pieces that Ashton found poetic. (I suspect that "Monotones" owes something to this.)


Thank you for that, Paul -- and Ashton said that the moon landing and Cunningham's dance were two things that inspired him to make "Monotones."

#15 sandik

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Posted 27 July 2009 - 04:14 PM

Here's what he looked like in motion
pd4 from Septet, to music by Satie


...

THough it looks a little like Apollo with three muses, I'm told by one who might know that Merce himself said he was Krishna with the gopis....


MC might have thought about Krishna, but that last sequence moving upstage left is very Apollo -- thank you so much for posting this link. I've been feeling sad all day long.


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