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Merce Cunningham Dance Company: The Legacy Tour

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Over the subsequent 46 years the Events each numbered, have become a tradition in the Cunningham cannon, and are very different from his presentations of his complete pieces in traditional sit-down theatres.

As the Event I saw in 2003 in Richmond, Virginia, the audience was seated. Perhaps it was just an event. :P I hope to have seats again in February, for what will be another E/event.

Here is a link to a review, with photos, of the Event Christian attended.

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Cristian,

You know that I don't think that about Alonso, and wouldn't, like Cunningham her life's work, body of achievements, longevity, phenomenal artistry and indeed the near miraculous way she overcame her blindness demand respect. And yes they exist along with the negatives, of which there are many, but in approaching Alonso on any critical level you cannot deny her massive contribution to the world of ballet and dance.

But the nerve I hit with you, is the nerve you hit - and why I would argue with both you and Patrick and would continue to do so, that whatever one's personal view of Cunningham and his work, the personal is absolutely right for the individual, but in the face of his achievements and contribution to write it off as "senseless dance" and not the "real deal" without a caveat, is absolutely wrong.

You went and saw an Event. I love, love, love the Cunningham Events, but they are not perhaps the best introduction to Cunningham for the novice viewer. Patrick asked about my statement about Cunningham's catholic contribution to theatre and performance and the Events are one such where chance and fate required a change of plans in in doing so Cunningham opened up a whole new experience in theatrical presentation. In Vienna in 1964 the company was hired to present their work at the Museum of the 20th Century: on arriving there they saw there was no theatre, no performance space which could double or serve as a proscenium arch space or even end on theatre, so they took the radical step of turning the whole space into the performance space, of having the audience intermingle with the action and instead of performing the pieces in their entirety taking sections from several works and having those sections performed in different spaces.

Over the subsequent 46 years the Events each numbered, have become a tradition in the Cunningham cannon, and are very different from his presentations of his complete pieces in traditional sit-down theatres. Patrick questioned Cunningham's influence on the wider realm of theatre and the Event is one of Cunningham's most radical innovations, impacting on how theatre and dance theatre can be and is performed.

When you go to an Event, you're not going to a traditional dance event, some of my favourite Cunningham experiences ever have been the Events, especially his 2003 Event in the Turbine Hall of the Tate Modern in London. I'm sorry Cristian that you had such a bad experience and expected to sit, but Events are what you pay for. Indeed the worst ones I've seen were at the Barbican Theatre in 2005 when Dance Umbrella wanting to bring Cunningham over for the Summer were very lazy in programming a series of Events in a prosc arch theatre - the effect was diminshed.

An Event is like a moving art gallery, and I would say to a novice that going to a more traditional Cunningham evening of work is maybe a better bet. Abatt mentioned Biped which with it's lush digital imagery projected on a scrim and very conventional Gavan Bryers score is a nice introduction to Cunningham.

The thing is though you saw one aspect of Cunningham and judge the whole by it, and that aspect you didn't like. Fine. But then there's a body of work stretching back sixty years and a body of art, design, music it's too huge a cannon of work to judge on one viewing.

One of my favourites is Roaratorio, with its epic Cage soundtrack, which is evocative, heartbreaking, incredibly beautiful, Cunningham's late work with danceforms computer software, and the epic late works such as Fluid Canvas, CRWDSPCR, Biped, Split Sides etc I love his pure dance works from the 80s such as Fabrications, Native Green, Trackers and those wonderful classic works from the fifties and sixties such as Crises, Rainforest, Scramble - Cunningham and the thought of that work just fills me with such excitement and happiness, when you look at that phenomenal body of work, the evolution of the work over almost seven decades and the poverty he worked under for the majority of his dance and creative life - it's awe inspiring.

I think the reason why I have such a problem with your summation is not because it's how you felt, I fully appreciate and accept that, but it's a bit like hearing "Twinkle Twinkle Little Star" and then writing off the entire works of Mozart based on that one fleeting example.

And I'm not saying I don't have problems with some of Cunningham's work - the last works from the final years Views On Stage, Nearly Ninety have not been entirely happy experiences for me, and especially Xover, which i have to say I hated. It appeared to me as if a very talented choreographer with no ideas of his own had ripped off and plagerised a Cunningham work, except it was a Cunningham work. Nearly Ninety I had to see twice in order to appreciate the choreography, some of the best from Cunningham I've ever seen - the problem with Nearly Ninety was the design and awful Cheesy Sonic Youth music. I've never seen a Cunningham work where the stage and costume's did their best to destroy the work and the music sounded like a dodgy Pink Floyd knock off concept album from the seventies. It's a pity because like I said the choreography was some of the richest I've seen in years.

You said it's a tragedy when any dance company closes and I agree, but this isn't just any company it's the Cunningham Company and when it closes something vital is going to be lost from the cultural landscape of humanity and I don't think it's loss will be truly felt till it's gone. Through his life Cunningham saw the greats diminish to nothing, the Graham Company, once the most powerful in the world, is now a risible shadow, you wouldn't know what Graham was what she stood for, Limon, Humphreys etc and I guess he didn't want his company to turn into that - a pale echo which once performed in Opera houses going through the motions in school gymnasiums. I also think that's why he kept creating new works year in year out, he knew the only way the company kept its place was if the "living God" came up with the goods and at the end of every performance was wheeled out to be worshipped.

It's also sad that it's disappearing as the present company which I had problems with as dancers on the last viewing at Barbican last October looked finally to be a cohesive company and danced better than I've ever seen them. Julie Cunningham is still in a league of her own and reminds me of that great company of dancers from the late 90s and early 00s, when every dancer had a big personality. But what they've lost in individual flair, they've gained in homogeny of technique and slickness. I have to say the men do look like a a technically competent unit.

If the Event was not to your liking and indeed with an Event you are taking pot luck as to music, performance space etc then I suggest you try an evening of Cunningham works in a traditional sit down theatre. Check out the link as to the full final schedule. Biped is a good bet as is Split Sides and both have very lovely music. I would also suggest reading up on Cunningham and his use of chance procedures to fully understand what it's all about. The best books are:

Chance & Circumstance: 20 years with Cage and Cunningham - Carolyn Brown

Merce Cunningham: Fifty Years. Chronicle and Commentary by David Vaughn.

Or go to the website www.merce.org and maybe get a DVD of Split Sides, or A Lifetime in Dance or the Cunningham technique videos to fully appreciate what it's all about.

But whatever you do, please do give Cunningham and the ferociously difficult technique another chance. It's the last chance to do so, it truly is worth giving it a second go, this is the last chance.

Great post, Simon :flowers:. At the very end of the story, I understand that my inability to get most modern works comes from my narrow exposure to them. I also believe that the ultimate goal of a dancing company is, more than fulfilling the artistic needs of choreographers, to provide pleasure to a given audience. Obviously, this was greatly achieved during the course of Cunningham's company's life, so don't mind my bitterness. I was just aggravated about the seating situation.

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Like Cristian, I followed the pre-performance publicity for the Cunningham Event in Miami. Nothing I read would have prepared me for the experience Cristian's mother and a number of other people had to endure. "Standing room only" is not excusable to everyone, especially if they had not been warned at time of ticket puchase. Though I myself would rather have enjoyed standing around, the sight of others in distress would certainly have tainted my own enjoyment of the experience had a been there.

That said, I find that myself in agreement with much of what is being said on both sides of this discussion. Playing Devil's Advocate, however, I can think of a number of reasons to be puzzled, distressed, and ultimately not satisfied by Cunningham's work.

1) I attended Cunningham performances in New York City several times a year during the time from the mid-sixties to the mid-eighties. I loved some, enjoyed a lot, was bored by much, and generally agree with those posters like Quiggin who suggest that Cunningham may not have known how to end a piece. They did go on ... and on ... and on, making me think occasionally of Mr.Bennett in Pride and Prejudice interrupting his daughter's piano recital at a party: "Thank you, Mary, you have delighted us long enough."

2) A related criticism might be as follows: for those whose standards come from 19th and early 20th century ballet, one might be tempted to look at Cunningham as an example of very bad ballet. Let's take the example of Coast Zone. Cunningham does away with the formal structures of ensemble, soloist, principal. He does not focus long on any single dancerhe does not try to manipulate you into looking at exactly what HE might want you to look at. You are free to let your eyes wander. Because Coast Zone is based on so many ballet movements, one might easilly be tempted to think of it as "bad ballet" -- unfinished, sloppy, labored. It's not that to me, but I can see how it might appear so to many.

3) To the extent that one's taste comes from what one grew up with, I can see why I always worked hard to love Cunningham -- and why I might not have done so had I grown up in a country like Cuba. My first Cunningham performance (at which he danced) was in a studio setting in the mid-sixties. I was told he was a dance god by people who loved Balanchine. Since Balanchine was a dance god to me, i was definitely predisposed to want to see what was that they respected so much in Cunning ham. Everything I was confused by or disturbed by -- i.e.,. every thing was not Balanchine or Graham or Petipa -- I worked hard to understand, accept, and gain pleasure from. I wish I could say that I sat there in the studio, tabula rasa, and immediately experienced Genius. But I did not.

About this thread: it's GREAT TO SEE SO MANY POSTERS WRITING WITH PASSION, including Simon, with whom I agree entirely about such things as Don Q, technical brilliance for its own sake, and the need to open ourselves to a variety of expeiences. I also appreciate your willingness to admit that "a Cunningham Event is perhaps not the best introduction for a novice viewer."

Thanks, Cristian, for starting the thread and being willing to expose your own responses as a Cunningham first-timer. Although I agree with Simon that Dance must be a Big Tent kind of art, I also recognize that there are times that we want to retreat into a smaller room for something that speaks to our soul. For that kind of experience, I agree Giselle is probably as good as you can get. There have been times when I've needed the consolations of Act II after being depressed by bad dance theater.

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Here is a link to a review, with photos, of the Event Christian attended.

Thanks for that link, kfw...I just realized about your post...

In any case, here's a fragment of the article...

MIAMIOn the opening night of the latest Merce Cunningham Dance Company performance which runs through tomorrow at Miamis Adrienne Arsht Center the doors to the theater opened and everyone gasped.

There was a problem. Our tickets featured seat assignments, but a kind of foreign body had taken over the auditoriums rows of chairs. This sculptural impediment was the work of Brooklyn-based, Florida-born artist Daniel Arsham, who began collaborating with Cunningham on sets in 2007 when he was 24 and the late choreographer was 84. For this performance, Arsham had installed a mountain of white platonic solids, a mound of convex shapes that towered above the people filtering into the hall. Peering up into the balconies, one could spot individual polygonal forms peeking out from shadowy seats, as if creeping toward the mass in the center of the room.

Standing room only, one of the ushers said ominously as we filed onto the stage, bare except for a series of carpeted runways on which we were not allowed to step. These pathways connected three rectangular performance areas marked off with tape, one slightly submerged, one at ground level, and one slightly elevated. Everyone began wandering around, vying for a good spot, whatever that might mean in this alien setting where cubes stole your seats and front and back were seemingly reversed.

Audience members began hassling the already anxious, surly ushers (who continuously had to drag people away from what would become the path of the dancers) trying to pry out of them the location from which the performers would emerge.

Such queries were silenced as the musicians of Sonic Combine a trio that worked with Cunningham collaborator Robert Rauschenberg from the peripheries of the stage, armed with some very strange-looking instruments, began to play atonal music. A sound technician blasted these disorienting sounds from speakers hidden all throughout the stage and its wings our stomping ground for the duration of the performance around which we had been invited to continuously stroll during the 30-minute show.

Like Cristian, I followed the pre-performance publicity for the Cunningham Event in Miami. Nothing I read would have prepared me for the experience Cristian's mother and a number of other people had to endure. "Standing room only" is not excusable to everyone, especially if they had not been warned at time of ticket puchase. Though I myself would rather have enjoyed standing around, the sight of others in distress would certainly have tainted my own enjoyment of the experience had a been there.

That said, I find that myself in agreement with much of what is being said on both sides of this discussion. Playing Devil's Advocate, however, I can think of a number of reasons to be puzzled, distressed, and ultimately not satisfied by Cunningham's work.

1) I attended Cunningham performances in New York City several times a year during the time from the mid-sixties to the mid-eighties. I loved some, enjoyed a lot, was bored by much, and generally agree with those posters like Quiggin who suggest that Cunningham may not have known how to end a piece. They did go on ... and on ... and on, making me think occasionally of Mr.Bennett in Pride and Prejudice interrupting his daughter's piano recital at a party: "Thank you, Mary, you have delighted us long enough."

2) A related criticism might be as follows: for those whose standards come from 19th and early 20th century ballet, one might be tempted to look at Cunningham as an example of very bad ballet. Let's take the example of Coast Zone. Cunningham does away with the formal structures of ensemble, soloist, principal. He does not focus long on any single dancerhe does not try to manipulate you into looking at exactly what HE might want you to look at. You are free to let your eyes wander. Because Coast Zone is based on so many ballet movements, one might easilly be tempted to think of it as "bad ballet" -- unfinished, sloppy, labored. It's not that to me, but I can see how it might appear so to many.

3) To the extent that one's taste comes from what one grew up with, I can see why I always worked hard to love Cunningham -- and why I might not have done so had I grown up in a country like Cuba. My first Cunningham performance (at which he danced) was in a studio setting in the mid-sixties. I was told he was a dance god by people who loved Balanchine. Since Balanchine was a dance god to me, i was definitely predisposed to want to see what was that they respected so much in Cunning ham. Everything I was confused by or disturbed by -- i.e.,. every thing was not Balanchine or Graham or Petipa -- I worked hard to understand, accept, and gain pleasure from. I wish I could say that I sat there in the studio, tabula rasa, and immediately experienced Genius. But I did not.

About this thread: it's GREAT TO SEE SO MANY POSTERS WRITING WITH PASSION, including Simon, with whom I agree entirely about such things as Don Q, technical brilliance for its own sake, and the need to open ourselves to a variety of expeiences. I also appreciate your willingness to admit that "a Cunningham Event is perhaps not the best introduction for a novice viewer."

Thanks, Cristian, for starting the thread and being willing to expose your own responses as a Cunningham first-timer. Although I agree with Simon that Dance must be a Big Tent kind of art, I also recognize that there are times that we want to retreat into a smaller room for something that speaks to our soul. For that kind of experience, I agree Giselle is probably as good as you can get. There have been times when I've needed the consolations of Act II after being depressed by bad dance theater.

Well said, bart... :flowers:

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Cristian,

That does sound like a real chore and also like the staff were well out of order. I have to say that reading all of this that sometimes the Cunningham aesthetic can be a little too uncompromising for its own good, but also looking at all of this I think finances are increasingly coming in to play.

At the Barbican in October (when they were presenting a full scale evening length work, with lights, theatre props, full musicians etc) they'd set up a pimp stall in the lobby were a Cunningham Foundation person was taking donations, selling very overpriced posters and other merch. I heard the guy talking about the difficulties they're having raising the $8million projected that they need for the legacy tour and wrapping up the company, he said they have about two thirds. He also said that while Cunningham was alive getting money was never a problem, now people don't want to invest in a temple where Elvis has left the building and for a company that's about to end.

The thing is to present a full scale evening in theatre is very veyr expensive, the events, requiring modest stage facilities, no fancy or complex light sets and musicians brought in for the occasion are relatively cheap to produce. (I googled Sonic Combine and listened to their music - it's pretty cheesy hippy i have to say, no wonder you were underwhelmed, some people just can't accept that 1969 is over.)

I don't know if you know but all Cunningham dance is created and rehearsed in silence and always has been the music is commissioned to last a certain length of time and it's not until first performance sometimes that the company hear what they're dancing to. ON Events they often draft people in at the last moment to freestyle and draft an artist in to create a decor. It really can be pot luck, it sounds like you got the pottiest pot luck going. Only once to his Sextet in the 50s did Cunningham choreograph and dance to a score, Satie.

However I also imagine it must be a royal pain in the posterior for the theatre staff on these evenings, having to be constantly vigilant that the audience don't get in the way of the dancers, co-ordinating audience in and around the stage and the lack of attention to audience members who have difficulty standing or mobility issues is awful. They should have had a contingency plan in place.

Another problem with Events is that they take several sections from various pieces of the repertory and put them together in patterns to make an entire evening or programme, this can have a mixed effect depending on the order the dances are arranged, and in the case where there are several platforms who's doing what where. The big aesthetic ethos with Cunningham was "chance" how a certain set of circumstances can effect or affect the performance experience - sometimes this creates marvels, though sometimes too it can really be a bit of a dud. At The Tate it was sublime, the magnificent Turbine Hall, beautiful sound and accompaniment, all under a huge art installation Olar Elliafsson's "Weather Project". It would seem that this set of circumstances wasn't so fortuitous (also if I'm brutally honest the company in 2003 was just smoking hot - as I said, I'm not overly enamoured of the current and last set of dancers, which is a real crying shame.)

And yes, there are times I agree with Drew that it can seem too long, Nearly Ninety would have been perfect at seventy minutes. But in orther works such as Groud Level Overlay, Biped, Split Sides, Rainforest he got it bang on. And I also love the very long pieces like Roaratorio though I appreciate some find themselves thirty minutes in to a non stop ninety minute evening praying for a quick and merciful death. But to any Cunningham novice I also say avoid the evening length works, or be sure to sit near the aisel just in case.

The thing is like Bart said Cunningham absolutely can't be judged as ballet if you're really going to start seeing it for what it is; especially as the technique can seem on the surface so balletic. There have been times when the women in the company (look up youtube vids of the late 80s to early 90s - Points In Space) were so balletic in technique, training and physicality and the men in contrast were very robust, ungainly even I love the company from that time and it has my all-time favourite Cunningham female dancer Victoria Finlayson.

Cristian if you are willing to give him one more shot the company is coming to Berkley in California next March (the closet I could find to Florida) and they'll be performing Pondway which is absolutely lush. Go to that and if you still hate it I swear I will send you reimbursement for your travel and theatre tickets.

http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=-327904579030507615#

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I don't know if you know but all Cunningham dance is created and rehearsed in silence and always has been the music is commissioned to last a certain length of time and it's not until first performance sometimes that the company hear what they're dancing to. ON Events they often draft people in at the last moment to freestyle and draft an artist in to create a decor. It really can be pot luck, it sounds like you got the pottiest pot luck going. Only once to his Sextet in the 50s did Cunningham choreograph and dance to a score, Satie.

That's fascinating, as are all these informative posts you're doing. It also makes me realize that all those events and performance art pieces of the 60s and 70s and beyond, come from Cunningham. I think I used to hear about Cage and Cunningham when I'd read about Laurie Anderson, although she's not one of the ones I've ever been a big fan of (I'm more the Karen Finley/Tim Miller/Monik Toebosch type in terms of taste in these areas). Some of those things in which the audience follows the artists around and 'into new worlds' comes to mind (there were some in Brooklyn in the 90s, even walking through muddy creeks and suchlike), and there's a memory of a London performance piece in a biggish house, where the viewer would sit in the room, and long periods would go by until all of a sudden some dancer would descend a staircase, dance startlingly, and then just disappear--very convincing embodiment of the ghost, I've often wished I had seen that. I don't know how to google it, though, as I can't remember the names, and never heard of anyone seeing it. Think i read about it in the Voice. I've been to a fair amount of performance art, but most of it doesn't attract me, and the interactivity between audience and artists is not for me, usually. I tend to want performance art to be somewhere between that sort and traditional theater, so that it's a little more firmly scripted. I've never found any of the 'chance music' of Cage or Stockhausen esp. interesting beyond the immediate moment; I don't find myself continuing to probe it. The high modernists used little of it, and I am more at home in that kind of difficult music: Boulez's Repons, with the computers responding to the orchestral playing, is much more my type of thing (this is superb if you ever get to hear a major perf., as I did at Columbia in 1986, and in 2003 at Carnegie Hall, which was all re-arranged (seats temporarily removed, etc. so the orchestra could be right in the middle), it is beautiful.

Cristian if you are willing to give him one more shot the company is coming to Berkley in California next March (the closet I could find to Florida) and they'll be performing Pondway which is absolutely lush. Go to that and if you still hate it I swear I will send you reimbursement for your travel and theatre tickets.

Oh, Mistah Simon, you're just soooo Prince of Wales, but California is about the same distance from Florida as London is. I'll go there and hate it for you if Cristian isn't into it...

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Cristian if you are willing to give him one more shot the company is coming to Berkley in California next March (the closet I could find to Florida) and they'll be performing Pondway which is absolutely lush. Go to that and if you still hate it I swear I will send you reimbursement for your travel and theatre tickets.

...only if yo're willing to listen to a 40 minutes Power Point presentation on "Giselle" that I did a while ago for a college class... :flowers:

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And yes, there are times I agree with Drew that it can seem too long

Quiggin spoke of problems with length and, later, Bart. I have only seen Cunningham's company a very few times and those few times I was always sorry when the performance came to an end. That may be luck (what I happened to see) or taste (what I happened to like), but I suspect it is also because I sometimes needed the time to 'get,' in my own partial way, what was happening on stage: the repetitions and permutations helped me to see more/better as the evening proceeded.

I will add that the two 'events' I attended were in theaters with proscenium stages and...uh...seats.

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In the early days I think you went to see Carolyn Brown and Viola Farber as much as the cooler Cunningham, all were great dancers to watch. I once saw Merce in the seventies dance with his company like a strange Pinter street person and you couldn't take your eyes off him - but then it seemed to become less interesting without him.

The Septet clip has a some relation to "Apollo" with the soft banality of Satie rather than astingent neoclassicism of Stravinsky underwriting the movements. Ultimately with Cage - I agree with papeetepatrick - it isn't very interesting music - and was sometimes played horribly loud. It's is a taunt, a poke in the face at middle class values, and which ends up as Adorno has said "an exaggerated version of the very postivism it sets to out to denounce."

Sometimes the new music (though I like Donatoni) seems so elaborately stingy - I heard Sylvano Busotti at the San Francisco Museum last Thursday in the open atrium sing and very nicely play the piano with an opera singer adding voice patterns and there was some string playing - and I kept thinking but why don't they just go on and play "PIerrot Lunnaire" - they're so close and it would bring in so much range and pleasure. Or sometimes I think why don't they just say it and play one of the Beethoven late quartets and break through these arbitrary conceptual walls they all set up, Cage and Duchamp and the rest.

As Rauchenberg's collages derive from Kurt Schwitter's, Cunningham's on-site proceniumless works come from the experiments in Gemany and Russia in the twenties when they had real brute force and context - Eisenstein's last stage production, before he went to film, took place in a factory and the audience moved from place to place. Some of this mad experimentation Balanchine brought over with him (along with the earlier avante garde of Petipa) - there is more of this to him than Diaghilev or "jazz' or american venacular - and that's why I think Balanchine's work is more radical than Cunningham's - some of it like the Beethoven late quartets in its ranging over scary and lyrical uncharted territories.

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I will break my promise of having done my final bow here-(hasn't Cher done the same for quite few years now with her "Farewell Tour"...? :D ). As I was writing a PM, I thought that I could share the thought, so here it goes.

I think that my experience with Cunningham is just a reflection of what's going on within the arts world in general, and here I will link this to that old discussion on the "death of ballet". I'm a firm believer in the "waves theory"-(if there's one, for which this is something that just popped off of my head as I'm writing). Trends in arts are born, conditioned by a historical framework, novelty and usually by some opposition to a certain pre-established past. We can see how right now the main trend in fashion by designers is to "create"-(or "recreate"?)-a "vintage" feeling in their designs. Hollywood starlets are more and more adopting the look of the actresses of the past, like Veronica Lake, Lyz Taylor, Audrey Hepburn or Grace Kelly in their clothes and hair styles for the red carpet, and the Christian Dior's "New Look" has experienced a total reborn/revamping in Galliano's designs. Nothing is "really new", and the newest thing seems to be about looking at the past instead of trying to create something original.

Last week I went to the Art Basel, the biggest art event of the US, which takes place in Miami Beach. I wandered for 4 hours looking at art installations, paintings, sculptures and everything in between. I didn't see that many original stuff among the THOUSANDS of works exposed. I kept looking at the paintings and thinking..."Oh..this looks like suprematism"...or "this is a Basquiat-inspired painting'...and on and on and on...

And then ballet...what's the most exciting thing happening to ballet at the moment, IN MY OPINION...? The XIX Century warhorses reconstructions. Here we're REALLY looking at the past and trying to be saved by it, for which we KNOW that this is a secure spot. The warhorses have endured centuries, and I have the feeling that they will keep carrying the bulk of the work.

There was a time when Duncan came over and danced barefoot...it was new, it was fresh and it hadn't been done too seriously before. Peope were ecstatic...until many decades later, when there was nothing else that could be drained from it. She came at the right time in the right place, and had the right audience. There's also the fact of getting to be part of a given creation process...of being THERE at the time and witnessed and LIVE its development. Simon's excitement when recounting his experiences tells a lot about this. To me the exposure to such alien body of work resulted in confusion and misunderstanding. It is not part of my past, nor of my culture, which is the totally opposite of Simon's case.

The times that I was faced toMalevich "Black Square" and Duchamp's "Fountain" I both laughed and looked with reverence. If I had been part of the public that witnessed the pieces when they were created, I would probably had had heated arguments in their defense. Now I looked at them with just curiosity.

There was a time when discarding ballet shoes for a free style type of dancing was the "it" thing...I don't think it is any longer. On Saturday night I kept thinking..."If right now it was 1954 and I was an 18 YO New Yorker, I probably would be sitting on the floor and cheering wildly to this..." But it is 2010..and I just wish I could have the opportunity to watch Vikharev's Beauty reconstruction.

Finally, I would like to quote a phrase that Mme. Alonso likes to repeat. She always says that "great dance masterpieces never die...they only sleep. It just takes someone with the passion and the means to awaken them..."

If this is the case with the body of work of Cunningham, then it is just a matter of waiting for another wave, when people will look at the past and rediscover this dormant pieces, and then revive them and present them back to where they belong...the stage.

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Sorry Drew, I get confused sometimes. You know what, the Events I've liked least have been the ones sitting in a traditional theatre and the promenade ones or ones in strange venues have been my favourites, not to say that the dancing or content have been markedly better or worse, just the element of surprise and my personal relationship to Cunningham. Truthfully, the photos posted of the venue and set up where Cristian had such a bad time made me really jealous that I hadn't been there.

Also, I can relate to not liking Cunningham, the first time I saw the company I was about 10 and really didn't get it, I was too young, for sure, the next time I was about 16 and in a theatre with a really bad sound system sitting in front of a loudspeaker which had been especially set up to play Rainforest at ear bleeding volume, and when I say I was sitting in front, I mean it, literally in front - I was in agony. Then the third time it was an Event in a park and that was it for me, I just fell in love with it there and then completely, but it certainly took time.

Sadly, though too, the company is dependent on the current dancers and my ardour really has cooled for this present company as I can honestly say I think it's the weakest company I've ever seen. For me only Julie Cunningham, in the company since 2004 is right up there for me, and one of the dancers I have to say is one of the worst dancers I've ever seen in any company anywhere it irritates me whenever they come on stage. But hey, that's the way it rolls, I just wish that the final company had been one I loved.

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You did not see "Coast Zone" in Miami, that is an older work out of repertory.

It might have been easier for you to approach the Event as a kind of living museum experience, and enjoyed the freedom to see the dancers as you chose, walking about, taking them in according to your won direction.

Speaking of direction, I can assure you that the Event was entirely a choreographed affair, staged by Robert Swinston, the Merce Cunningham Dance Company's Director of Choreography after Merce's death, and before that the Assitant to the Choreographer for decades. That might not make you like it any better, it really does not matter, but to suggest that there is no choreography might mislead someone reading this thread.

You began by wanting to know more about Merce Cunningham. If you watch "Classtime at Westbeth" or "Cunningham on Technique," two of the programs in the free webseries "Mondays with Merce," you will see sections of class (with the company), with Merce teaching. There you will note the ballet technique that you love (though not a barre, and no pointe shoes) used as the base for Cunningham's own technique. Just watch the warm up and it will feel quite familiar to you. If you start out from a stance of familiarity, you will probably appreciate the whole thing more. There is nothing wrong with wanting to see what you love over and over, and some of what you love is in Merce's work. You just have to unclutter your mind and look.

Here is a link to a page which lists all of the Mondays with Merce episodes now on line: http://merce.org/about/mwm_archive.php

Simon,perhaps we might meet somewhere along the Legacy Tour.

Nancy Dalva

producer/writer

Mondays with Merce

nancy@merce.org

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Over the subsequent 46 years the Events each numbered, have become a tradition in the Cunningham cannon, and are very different from his presentations of his complete pieces in traditional sit-down theatres.

As the Event I saw in 2003 in Richmond, Virginia, the audience was seated. Perhaps it was just an event. :P I hope to have seats again in February, for what will be another E/event.

Here is a link to a review, with photos, of the Event Christian attended.

There are "site specific" Events, and also Events presented in proscenium theaters--that came later. The Event in February should be beautiful.

To see more about Cunningham Events, and to hear Merce talk about them and see him staging one at the Dia:Beacon Museum (with footage from several Events there), see

Mondays with Merce 007 Cunningham Events

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Thank you for your posts and your passion and your knowledge, Simon. What a pleasure to read them. I just want to add that Merce choreographed other pieces, very early on, "to" music. He loved Satie. And since you love Roaratorio,

you might enjoy this Mondays with Merce about the current revival and its first performances at Disney Hall in Los Angeles. It shows film of the original cast, including Merce, and ends with extended excerpts from the first performance there. The soundscore is from the original, with John Cage reading.

Mondays with Merce 013 Re: Roaratorio

The fall Cunningham season in London will be wonderful, and I hope to see you there. Also, consider jumping over to Paris for that last season there, it is the last repertory performance season before the final Events.

Nancy Dalva

producer/writer

Mondays with merce

nancy@merce.org

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