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Merce Cunningham Dance Company: The Legacy TourNow in Miami...and a question.


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#1 cubanmiamiboy

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Posted 03 December 2010 - 10:11 AM

Tonight I'll be watching this company, which I've seen widely discussed on this board, and which I'm unfamiliar with. Knowing the great knowledge of many members here on this troupe, I'd like to know anything that you might add...
Thanks in advance...! :flowers:

From the Arsht center website...

[size="4"][font="Comic Sans MS"]"Choreographer Merce Cunningham and visual artist Robert Rauschenberg: Two undisputed giants of American culture. See their iconoclastic work from every angle and perspective in an astonishing 360-degree event—created especially for Miami— that re-imagines their legendary mid-20th Century collaborations.

First, you'll encounter a new site-specific installation by Daniel Arsham, constructed in the theater's auditorium. Then you'll proceed on to the stage itself where, on three large multi-level sets, 14 dancers, wearing original Rauschenberg-designed costumes, perform Cunningham's dazzling choreography."[/font][/size]

#2 sandik

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Posted 03 December 2010 - 11:22 AM

I envy you the opportunity -- I'm not sure I'll get to see the company on this tour.

The best advice I can give you is to go without expectations, and to be willing to look anywhere at anything. More than almost anyone else I know, Cunningham's work embodies a world of polar opposites. It is highly virtuosic, and yet the performers onstage may be doing something that you yourself did when you got out of bed this morning. It is not designed to tell a story or convey a specific emotion, and yet it is tremendously evocative and will often leave me wiped out. And the most important part of the world can be right over there, and several other places as well, at the same time.

I know it can sound zenny, or odd, but I've had some of the most astonishing experiences in the theater with this work, not because of what I saw, but because of how it made me look at it.

Please do come back here and tell us what you saw.

#3 abatt

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Posted 03 December 2010 - 11:27 AM

My advice to you is to bring ear plugs.

#4 cubanmiamiboy

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Posted 03 December 2010 - 12:27 PM

thank you both, sandik and abatt...

My advice to you is to bring ear plugs.


...wow...!! :excl:

#5 bart

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Posted 03 December 2010 - 01:09 PM

Unfortunately, I won't be able to get down to Miami for this, though I was hoping to do so despite my trepidation about the long drive and Miami's confusing (to me) road system. Cristian, please share your impressions with us ... in detail.

Anyone else planning on attending?

#6 cubanmiamiboy

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Posted 03 December 2010 - 03:12 PM

Unfortunately, I won't be able to get down to Miami for this, though I was hoping to do so despite my trepidation about the long drive and Miami's confusing (to me) road system. Cristian, please share your impressions with us ... in detail.


I certainly will, bart...! although you know me...I'm sort of reluctant about modern/contemporary dancing...but always open to watch almost everything... :thumbsup:

http://www.arshtcent...ew.aspx?id=8939

#7 cubanmiamiboy

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Posted 03 December 2010 - 10:36 PM

:wallbash: :wallbash: :wallbash: :wallbash: :wallbash:

...but back to the real deal...



#8 bart

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Posted 04 December 2010 - 08:14 AM

That must have been quite a :speechless-smiley-003: experience, Cristian. Do you have the heart to tell us more?

#9 cubanmiamiboy

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Posted 04 December 2010 - 08:20 AM

I DEFINITELY will...as soon as I'm back home.
Preview...I ALMOST demanded my money back...literally...due to a certain incident.

#10 Simon G

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Posted 05 December 2010 - 08:32 AM

:wallbash: :wallbash: :wallbash: :wallbash: :wallbash:

...but back to the real deal...




Cristian,

That's a really cheap shot. I expect better of you. One could equally argue that the "real deal" isn't stuck in a permanently moonlit glade sometime in the mid 19th century, and if dance stopped being "real" then perhaps it has no place in the modern world and Jennifer Homanns is right.

You saw a Cunningham Event, I love the Events, but equally I know Cunningham for first time viewers can be very difficult. Why not explain what you saw in full, your problems with what you saw, and instigate a discussion about dance and the wider scope of dance.

I love ballet, yet equally I love modern, Cunningham especially, but I know how alienating the work and aesthetic can be - I have no problem accepting that if there's a discussion involved and exchange of ideas, but to dismiss a body of work and revolutionary form as rich and expansive as Cunningham's on the back of one viewing and to pour scorn by comparing to Alonso in Giselle yet again is to not understand or be willing to understand that dance isn't a fixed, generic form that there isn't only one true vision and the idea that anything else is lightweight is regressive.

#11 cubanmiamiboy

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Posted 05 December 2010 - 09:15 AM


:wallbash: :wallbash: :wallbash: :wallbash:

...but back to the real deal...




Cristian,

That's a really cheap shot. I expect better of you. One could equally argue that the "real deal" isn't stuck in a permanently moonlit glade sometime in the mid 19th century, and if dance stopped being "real" then perhaps it has no place in the modern world and Jennifer Homanns is right.

You saw a Cunningham Event, I love the Events, but equally I know Cunningham for first time viewers can be very difficult. Why not explain what you saw in full, your problems with what you saw, and instigate a discussion about dance and the wider scope of dance.

I love ballet, yet equally I love modern, Cunningham especially, but I know how alienating the work and aesthetic can be - I have no problem accepting that if there's a discussion involved and exchange of ideas, but to dismiss a body of work and revolutionary form as rich and expansive as Cunningham's on the back of one viewing and to pour scorn by comparing to Alonso in Giselle yet again is to not understand or be willing to understand that dance isn't a fixed, generic form that there isn't only one true vision and the idea that anything else is lightweight is regressive.


Simon. I have no problem admitting that my real deal in dancing probably got somehow stuck in a permanent moonlight in the XIX Century, although I'm not disqualifying the XX Century at all-(I've certainly had pleasant experiences with Fokine, Balanchine and Graham's works among others). Now, if I was to pick a handful of ballet works to be saved from an imminent destruction of the world by aliens, and they were the only ones to be preserved for a future rebuilding of the art form, with no doubt I would choose those of the past century..150% positive.
About Giselle...well, that's a personal thing. Every time I get aggravated with-(to me)-senseless dance stuff, I always go back to the German tale. But that's just me...it is my antidote.
At the very end, this is, as with everything else, a matter of personal taste, of course, and as I said earlier...this is coming from a guy who loves long orthodox services and Mamie Van doren in High School Confidential... :flowers:

About that thing that I saw...I have to get back to this board later on.

#12 kfw

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Posted 05 December 2010 - 11:02 AM

About that thing that I saw...I have to get back to this board later on.

Please do, Cristian. And you've reminded me to buy a ticket for a Cunningham performance in February.

I think I've told the story here before of the first time I saw the Cunningham company live (and he danced a limited fashion himself in one of the works), in 1993 at the American Dance festival in Durham, NC. One would expect to find a pretty experienced audience at an established summer dance festival, an audience that knew what they were in for, but as my wife likes to stay, we started out sitting in the middle of a row, and by the end we were the row.

The next time I saw the company, at the same festival, she happily accompanied me to a morning panel discussion with Merce and a couple of original company members, but skipped the performance, and for her attempt at avoiding pain ended up being dragged by her sister to Wal-Mart that evening. I like to tease her that there's a moral to that story: a little poetic justice. :FIREdevil:

Anyhow, do let us know what you thought. Some Cunningham dances I've loved from the first and watching others was like listening to challenging music. It took all my concentration, but eventually . . . you know how astronauts in training are taken up in planes that climb high at a steep trajectory, so that the passengers experience G forces, and then the plane freefalls and they experience weightlessness? When I finally "get" the choreography, that's a beautiful feeling.

#13 Simon G

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Posted 05 December 2010 - 01:24 PM

Cristian,

I think though that this is the major problem with the state of dance, and why Homanns work carries great weight in that dance can't be a static entity and claim to be universally pertinent, that great dancers alone can't carry the art forward and why choreography is the most vital component of dance, it's the voice of dance. You say you don't discount 20th century dance, well a great deal of choreography, Cunningham's especially is a 21st century happening. Retreating back to the 19th century second act of Giselle because of what we perceive to be "senseless things" is a poor response. I respect that for you that is the apogee, but likewise for me it's the death of dance. I love Giselle, don't get me wrong, but if it were to stop there then I couldn't make any kind of argument for dance to continue.

A while back you posted two video clips of Valdes and Osipova in the fouette coda of Don Q pas de deux and proclaimed that this is the glorious future of dance. I didn't respond then I wish I had, but for me those two clips if anything were a death knell for dance as an art form.

In both clips the fouettes were technical feats of speed, virtuosity, the Osipova one in particular was nothing but her showing off how fast she could do the fouettes, indeed she did the whole thing again as an encore and probably was still faster than had she stuck to the original tempo. What kind of future is there from those two examples? The only way forward is to stick the ballerina in a centrifuge. If you read Gelsey Kirkland's account of how she tried to bring a dramatic purpose to the hackneyed virtuoso feat of Kitri's fouettes from the mid 70s you can see even then she realised that as an art form ballet is dead if the virtuosity is all there is.

For me nothing is more synonymous with ballet's disintegration as an art form than the Don Q pas de deux, a lightweight ballet even in its entirety stripped of story and acts and served up as a gala fayre pas de deux for a high paying audience who couldn't give a toss about ballet as art, but want an evening of cunning stunts to justify the inlated ticket prices.

There could be no Cunningham without Graham and there could never have been Graham without Denishawn & ballet - and if there is any purpose to dance it's to be open to the new experience while keeping an open mind.

That's why I find this post depressing, because Cunningham is phenemomenally vital and the last year of this utterly miraculous company performing these works and this technique is a tragedy because there will be nothing to fill that void. Cunningham demands enough respect for what it is to be taken and assessed on that level as being the "real deal" in itself. Cunningham was aware and open to every dance form especially ballet, indeed he was a contemporary of Alonso when she was in New York as a star and he a struggling soloist.

There will always be opportunities to see Giselle indeed as long as there are galas and ballerinas the second act along with the Don Q pas de deux will continue to be performed, and each time it's taken out of context it destroys what it's actually about a little bit more - and that's probably why the Don Q PDD is so popular it can be cut out from the problematic concept of art and served up as virtuosity without any fibre of story or art and still remain intact.

But very soon it won't be possible to see Cunningham's works, tragically they'll be dead, because no one will take the time, effort, or financial burden of performing them as they should be, and when they're gone for good the world will be poorer for it. And ballerinas will continue to emote and spin in selected PDD out of context, and the dance world will be poorer and sadly no one will care or in time even remember Cunningham; but it doesn't lessen the imporatance and brilliance of who he was and what his works stood for.

#14 cubanmiamiboy

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Posted 05 December 2010 - 07:23 PM

Cristian...great dancers alone can't carry the art forward and why choreography is the most vital component of dance...


...I wonder if there was even any choreography involved, or if they were just encouraged to pace, stretch, roll and seat motionless as they pleased...

Edited to add: Sorry about that. Of course I know this was a choreographic work. I was just being sarcastic. My bad.

Retreating back to the 19th century second act of Giselle because of what we perceive to be "senseless things" is a poor response.



I think it is a very valid option, for which nobody else gets hurt on the way. Others, like critics, have the advantage of writing bitter national newspaper articles, and so getting their points into thousands of people's heads. At least the "poor" aspect of my option only affects me.

I love Giselle, don't get me wrong, but if it were to stop there then I couldn't make any kind of argument for dance to continue.



I never said that ballet was to stop there. I also love Chopiniana and Theme and Variations, so I DO believe that dance has indeed continued...

A while back you posted two video clips of Valdes and Osipova in the fouette coda of Don Q pas de deux and proclaimed that this is the glorious future of dance.



I don't think that's exactly what I said. In any case, here's my OP.

I'm SO GLAD that ballerinas like Osipova and Valdes, with all that joy and fire, are rescuing ballet from its ever expanding ranged of bland/boring/soulless/generic performances...
So THANK YOU GIRLS, for all that excitement...! :clapping: :clapping: :clapping: :clapping: :clapping:


Re: The Don Quixote PDD...

... as a gala fayre pas de deux for a high paying audience who couldn't give a toss about ballet as art, but want an evening of cunning stunts to justify the inlated ticket prices.


...this is certainly a dangerously generalized statement, Simon. Could I be one of the very few audience members whose Don Quixote PDD viewing wasn't determined by the reasons listed above...?

That's why I find this post depressing, because Cunningham is phenomenally vital and the last year of this utterly miraculous company performing these works and this technique is a tragedy because there will be nothing to fill that void.


Simon, I won't argue that the ending of ANY dance company is indeed a tragedy to the art form. Now...watching several audience members leave a performance midway, quietly making fun of it-(as I witnessed)- and not even being sure to clap at the end, out of total confusion and disappointment of the entire thing...THAT is a tragedy.

Edited to add:

This is a short clip of something very close-(perhaps even the same thing...or a variation of it or both)-of what I saw...its time multiplied by 11.



AND...

then...the "music", which was something like...



You can actually play both clips at the same time-(the dancing one has no sound)-so you can have a pale idea of the whole thing...

...and so back again to the real deal...



#15 Simon G

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Posted 06 December 2010 - 02:13 AM

It's interesting that you should post a clip of Fonteyn & Nureyev as both were ardent fans and supporters of Cunningham, his work and company. Nureyev, Balanchine, Baryshnikov, Kirstein all ardent admirers of Cunningham to the extent that they brought his work into the repertories of NYCB, ABT, Paris Opera.

You show me a clip of Coast Zone and ask me to see your point of view that Cunningham is senseless, banal, facile - well sorry to disappoint, I see Coast Zone and I feel passion, admiration, choreographic genius because let me tell you, as much as you like to rubbish Cunningham on one viewing the technique, the choreography isn't easy, it's brutally difficult to execute. The choreographic patters and ethos is rigourous, the product of a genius - the theories and practice of chance procedure one of the defining artistic movements of the 20th & 21 st centuries. The triumverate of Cunningham, Cage & Rauschenberg's theory on design, art, music, choreography, theatre impact on every aspect of modern theatre and art to this day. And this is the problem I have with the attitude of dismissing out of hand that you take, you don't understand, you have no desire to understand or explore further, and that's fine, it's your pregroagtive absolutely - but by the same token to dismiss entirely something that so clearly isn't worthless is just crass.

Because this is the thing. The life and achievements of Cunningham demand respect, they're irrefutable. And if someone doesn't like it, or hates it, fine - but it's not fine to conclude that because one doesn't like it there must be nothing there.

I don't care if people walked out, I've been watching Cunningham for years people have always walked out, they've been walking out on Cunningham for 57 years, does that make them right? No, it makes the work not for them, fair enough but when the walkers dismiss it as worthless, then all I can say is they're wrong. Just as I would be wrong to dismiss the clip of Alonso as a deluded elderly blind woman in a tutu kidding herself that she's a fifteen year old virgin's ghost.

I regularly make myself sit through stuff I hate, Wayne Mcgregor, I hate his stuff, but I've seen every show he's done in the UK, both for the RB & his own company and while I can't like it, I likewise can't dismiss it entirely. I've made the attempt to appreciate his work his choreographic style.

Likewise with the Osipova & Valdes, I don't deny they are fabulous technicians, top flight dancers, but the Don Q Pdd depresses me because it's indicative so much of the modern approach to the classics a kind of technical revisionism where every aspect is reinvented with a hitherto unparalled technical brillo, because that's what the punters may pay for. Like I said where else is there to go now except to put the ballerina in a centrifuge and have her fouette at Mach 1?

I don't think we can talk about Cunningham because you show me the Coast Zone and I see something that just thrills me to bits, but you see a crushing bore, likewise while I haven't always loved or even liked Cunningham's music collaborations (and make no mistake there have been some beautiful ones, and some ear bleeders) I always accepted this is what I signed up for, made an attempt to familiarise myself with the composer before or after, especially if I had problems with the music.

And Cristian that's absolutely right for you, and you're right for you. But it doesn't make it right or a fair or measured response to Cunningham and his work. Which is why I got so irritated, Alonso in Giselle is the "real deal" for Giselle, the Merce Cunningham Dance Company is the "real deal" for modern dance, and both in their own ways are the real deal for dance as a whole. There's enough room within the shrinking, underfunded world of dance for both to co-exist without detracting from one another.


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