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Ocean livestream, Friday, 8/22

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From a Merce Cunningham Trust email:

As part of the ongoing Cunningham Fellowship Program, Lisa Boudreau (MCDC 1994 - 2008) and Andrea Weber (MCDC 2004 - 2011) have been working with a select group of dancers for two weeks to reconstruct sections of Merce Cunningham's Ocean (1994).

John Cage's original concept of Ocean, in 1991, was for a dance to be performed in a circular space, with the audience surrounding the audience, and the musicians (112 of them) surrounding the audience. It was not possible to realize this project at the time, but a commission for performances in Brussels and Amsterdam in 1994 made it a reality. Andrew Culver composed music according to Cage's concept and David Tudor made an electronic component (Soundings: Ocean Diary). Cunningham's choreography was in nineteen sections, using a chance process based on the number of hexagrams in the I Ching --- 64, but owing to the length of the dance this was doubled, 128. This number of phrases allowed for solos, duets, trios, quartets, and group sections. To accustom the dancers to dancing in the round, Cunningham told them "you have to put yourself on a merry-go-round that keeps turning all the time." Marsha Skinner designed unitards in varied colors; at a certain point the women added dresses. Ocean was first performed in May 1994 at the Cirque Royal, Brussels. It was revived in July 2005 in that year's Lincoln Center Festival in New York City. The last performance was in Rainbow Quarry in Minnesota, September 2008, at which time the piece was filmed by Charles Atlas.

There will be two showings of Ocean on Friday, August 22nd. The 4:30pm showing will be live-streamed online by the NYU Tisch Dance & New Media program here.

Previous Events can be viewed here.

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On the Summer Reading thread, responding to Quiggin’s question

What choreographers can you think of unleashing such kinds of whiteness or negative space on stage?

sandik wrote:

Well, I'd suggest Cunningham, but I often do (suggest Cunningham)

Did anyone see the Trust's staging of Ocean excerpts yesterday? Whiteness - or maybe off-whiteness with a hint of grey - as in the City Center studio floor, was very much an element in the presentation. One of the cameras seemed to be at eye level to the studio audience seated around the floor, so whenever the dancers were halfway across it, the floor largely filled the screen. I've seen many of the films Cunningham made with Charles Atlas and Eliot Caplan, and I know he sometimes delighted in obstructing even the live audience's vision during certain dances and Events. But this didn't seem a felicitous choice, at least for as often as we saw it. On the other hand, Cunningham might have been amused that the audio and video were several seconds out of sync. Of course that scarcely mattered during the actual dancing, but the stagers and dancers spoke before and after the dancing.

As wonderful as it has been to watch these streamed Events, and to have them available online afterward – and that’s mighty high on my wonderfulness scale - the bland studio space itself has been the weak link. This time at least the dancers were wearing attractive unitards, probably the originals, and that helped a lot.

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the streaming was done at the second go-round of this presentation.

a scan of the program obtained at the earlier showing is posted below.

the introductory remarks, which may or may not have been clearly documented on the stream, were a little hard to hear in the large room and were not amplified.

one fact voiced then, and perhaps again at the streamed presentation was that the dancers would be wearing the actual costuming designed by M. Skinner. these midnight blue unitards were the third of three changes that were part of the full, 90-min. version of OCEAN.


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Thanks, rg. The introductory remarks were a little faint at first, but I'd thought I'd heard the costumes were original. Good to have confirmation.

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