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Posts posted by Nanatchka

  1. 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


    Mondays with merce


  2. 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

  3. 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


    Mondays with Merce


  4. I apologize -- I thought there was a heading in the printed program above the interview that said "The Bridge Project" and figured the project was bigger than just the Shakespeare. (I forgot to pack it :flowers: )

    It was a terrific interview. I hope there is an online link soon.

    I know it is confusing the article is in there---BAM uses program articles more as advances to interest audiences in future events than as program notes.

    And don't apologize! I am thrilled you read it and liked it---it is part of a much longer interview. You can see more of it on Mondays with Merce next week---in the upcoming episode. Here's the info:

    You can find out more about Mark Morris's "Socrates," as he is calling it ( and also "Behemoth," also on that program and his only work made without music ) on the next Mondays with Merce, The Legacy, "Mr Cunningham and Mr Morris, with guest artist Mark Morris"

    Mondays with Merce homepage.

    This series of webcasts (or webisodes_as they are called) is on line and free to all to see.

  5. According to an interview with Nancy Dalva in the BAM program, as his contribution to The Bridge Project, Mark Morris is creating a 35-minute piece for his entire company to Eric Satie's "Socrate". There will be text and music..

    I have to find that article---I haven't seen it in print--but I will just point out right away that the Mark Morris Dance Company is NOT part of the Bridge Project (Shakespeare in rep) but has its own season in February at BAM, in the Howard Gilman Opera House. (www.bam.org) (www.mmdg.org) "Socrates," as Mark Morris calls his dance is on a bill with a revival of Behemoth and also a NY premiere, "Looky."

    Best to all Ballet Talkers, and thanks for the "shout out!"

    Nancy Dalva

  6. Cunningham has had a keen interest in video collaborations for years. James Atlas was the person he worked with for years states--on PBS--states,
    I first met Merce Cunningham in 1971 and in 1974 began collaborating with him over a period of ten years making “media/dances”, works combining dance with film and video, pieces made for the camera.

    So maybe the idea of his works being in a different form, being archived and licensed, and as video records, the body of them going through a true "sea change" is not such a recent one. Or maybe he doesn't quite know, and is moving towards some resolution, but nonetheless is in sly control, as people who set up trusts--at least in novels--often are.

    When the great Polish director Tadeusz Kantor died, his company did a final tour, then disbanded, leaving memories of his work cleanly intact.

    The filmmaker who worked with Merce is Charles Atlas.

  7. This is an interesting review in the Observer. I believe this picture is also from the archives.

    Villella's Heroic Homecoming: Miami Burnishes Balanchine

    Actually the photo is current, shot by a photographer shooting for The Miami Herald to accompany reviews of MCBallet's New York City Center season. The Observer went to some pains to acquire it, bless their hearts. While many papers do use only provided photos, others use a mix of their own and provided (New York Times), favoring their own whenever possible. If companies do not hold photo shoots (frequently part of a final dress rehearsal), obviously there won't be current photos.

    Oh. I wrote the review (for those who don't know my old nom de web.)

  8. Thanks so much for your work on this, Nanatchka. I had been greatly looking forward to these videos, and, viewing issues aside, I have not been disappointed.

    Thank you so much! If you are a facebook user, join the Mondays with Merce group---I send updates on all the programs. We're working on 003 now...

  9. From the website Merce.org:

    Starting Monday, January 12, 2009, we invite you to join us in the Merce Cunningham Studio for Mondays With Merce, a series of webcasts available for free viewing. Go behind the scenes at the Merce Cunningham Studio to see Merce teach advanced technique class and conduct rehearsals. The episodes will also include interviews with Merce Cunningham and his associates, including current and former dancers, artists and musicians, and choreographers who have been influenced by his work. We will also feature occasional visits by surprise guests!

    The videos are here. I recommend playing at slow speed. You'll have a smaller screen, but even with my DSL, my high speed feed broke up badly, making viewing all but impossible.

    There is a note that the third video would be up on Jan. 26, but . . . not yet.

    First of all--the third episode will be up NEXT Monday, Feb. 9. The webpage will be changed to reflect this. Sorry---that was the date of the second episode.

    Second, I think our web streaming issues are now solved. Hurray! Staring this next Monday, you should have no trouble viewing Mondays with Merce on your computer, no matter your connection, band width, etc. We had much more traffic than anticipated (!!) (thanks, Ballet Talk!!!) and are trying to be responsive to everyone's viewing "issues." Thanks for this post. I am so so pleased to have Ballet Talkers viewing Mondays with Merce. Write to me at nancy@merce.org with any comments, viewing problems, or anything at all, and I will respond as soon as I can. Thanks Carbro!


    Nancy Dalva


    Mondays with Merce

    Mondays with Merce

  10. Wendy herself was a pretty good choreographer, in the June Taylor Dancers vein. I saw a fun kick line she put together for an early playlet called "When Dinah Shore Ruled the Earth." . I am not good at links, but there is a comprehensive obit in the New York Times. It gets her age wrong--56 not 55)--and it's wrong that the tv broadcast of Uncommen Women was a breakthough role for Meryl Streep. Meryl was already an ascending star--when ever was she not?--and was the "name" in the broadcast. The actress who most accurately enbodied Wendy on stage was her friend from the Yale School of Drama Alma Cuervo, who played the Streep part originally. Of course Streep was wonderful, but so was Cuervo---and so were so many other actresses in Wendy Wasserstein's plays. Actors too, but men were the foils. Friends have noted that she was beloved by all who knew her, and open-heartedly loving in return.

  11. I found this stuff fascinating, and it occurred to me that the first radical elements he introduced (separating the music from the dance, etc.) were new and perhaps refreshing at that time in the same way the use of technology is now.

    I think Merce would agree with that! Paul, that guy who starts and ends Sounddance was Merce himself ( his part is now danced by Robert Swinston). The curtain/set is by Mark Lancaster...It happens that Merce was also the last person seen in Pictures. Remember the end, Merce standing there holding Trish Lent across his body?

    And Fendrock, I don't quite know how, but even without music, or decor, even with chance, Merce's dances still have the clearest structures, and are still astoundingly complex. I think a way to think about them would be to think about Cezanne, and his paintings, particularly of Mont St. Victoire. That kind of art. This is absolutely my favorite topic in the world....and I don't think you get a great idea of the work from that film. It makes Merce sound kind of flaky in places, and he is anything but.

  12. I watched a documentary on Merce Cunningham today, and I don't understand his appeal.

    So many of his techniques seem like gimmicks to me -- the dancing is not with the music but just happens at the same time as the music -- the use of chance to generate choreography -- any "natural" movement is dance -- etc.

    What am I missing?

    Working backwards on your post:

    I'm glad you are still interested, and will try to address your reactions and question. First, what you are missing is the experience of the dance in performance, by the Merce Cunningham Dance Company. I don't know which documentary you saw, but I do suggest you see the company when you can, and let us know what you think.

    Second, these are not gimmicks. They are a philosophy. At the time Merce Cunningham and John Cage started collaborating, more than 50 years ago, their ideas were quite radical.The notion of dance and decor and music being separate means that movement is sufficient onto itself, not needing these other elements.

    Next, chance does not generate the choreography. Rather, it is used at some point, or point, in the making of dances to determine discrete elements---such as how many dancers enter, for one possible example. The work is not improvised whatsoever, and it is not being determined as it is performed. Among the reasons for using chance stated by Mr Cunningham's, a desire to make choices outside his own frame of reference is primary.

    Finally, I don't know exactly what was meant in the documentary about "natural" movement. Merce Cunningham is inspired by the natural world--by birds, by cats, etc.--and also has always been a keen observer of humans. However, his technique, which combines elements of the classical, specifically in the lower body, with a whole additional use of the torso, augmented in recent years by additional refinements, is complex, demanding, and requires highly trained dancers. Many of the Cunningham dancers have ballet backgrounds, some coming from ballet companies and schools, and some joining them after leaving. Merce himself taught at the School of American Ballet. His work is in the repertories of ballet companies including ABT and NYCB. His tecnnique is in the curriculum of many dance departments, and is also taught, of course, at the Merce Cunningham Dance Studio, in the Westbeth Building in downtown New York City. There are also some technique videos.

  13. Jack, Robert Swinston was dancing the role that was originally Merce's in Sounddance. I think the "boy in blue" in "Suite" was probably also dancing a role of Merce's--there is a fantastic duet for that dancer (and also a marvelous solo). I have seen the duet recently danced by Jonah Bokaer, partnering Lisa Boudreau. She is tall and very beautiful--reminds me of Cyd Charisse--and he is young, dark, handsome, slim, very precise placement, very fine dancer.

  14. Merce has just returned from a trip to Japan to receive the prestigious. Praemium Imperiale Award. He is very well indeed.

    "For the first time in the Award's 17 years' history, the Japan Art Association has made the announcement of this year's five Praemium Imperiale Awards Laureates in a ceremony in the Tokyo National Museum.

    In an event presided over by former Prime Minister Yasuhiro Nakasone, the names of the Laureates in the five categories were announced as follows: Painting: Robert Ryman; Sculpture: Issey Miyake; Architecture: Yoshio Taniguchi; Music: Martha Argerich; and Theatre/Film: Merce Cunningham." (from the announcement)

  15. Christo expects to make money on the Gates by selling photos of it, etc., it's not like the money's being spent it's more like an investment or in actual terms, a blatant commerical use of the park.  :)

    Over the weekend there were SO many people around the park and the Upper Westside it was crazy, almost like the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade were going on!

    No public funds were used to make The Gates. The money came from the Christos. No admission was charged. The cost was some 20 million dollars. Now that the Gates are complete, Christo will not draw this subject any longer--this limited nature of his art making on the subject is what enables him to sell the drawings in the first place, thus funding the projects. The city benefitted by the influx of tourists, to say nothing of the intangible benefits of the karma, which was excellent on Sunday afternoon. What fun!

  16. Thanks for the info everyone.  I do realize that jumping is not nearly as integral a part of modern,  as it is in Ballet.  But I heard stories over the years about Taylor and  (especially) Cunningham. Just curious.........

    In a talk to an audience at the Paramount Theatre in Austin Texas quite some time ago, when asked to comment on Merce Cunningham, Martha Grahm said,"Merce was made for the air."

    A current Cunningham dancer with a fantastic jump is Daniel Squire. Former Cunningham dancer Kimerly Bartosik took to the air like a bird. Et.al.....

  17. what I remember enjoying about it was the phrasing, the incredible silliness of Tharp's own dancing in "Show me the Way to go Home" or One more for the Road or whatever it was, where it actually looked somehow like she was trying to sneak back into the house through a basement window..... I know she did NOT do that, but htat's the afterimage I have. Red Skelton could not have been funnier.

    There was another dance, was it "Strangers in hte Night"? that had something of the feel of a tango to it the way her own company danced it, that girl was like Rita Hayworth, oh so juicy, incredible fire, sumptuous phrasing.... ABT didn't have ANY of that.

    SO what can you say?

    Paul, I think One for the Road was Sara Rudner and John Carrafa (did you see Tharp do the Rudner part?), and Strangers was Billy Whitener and Amy Spencer, when I find my program I will post. Meanwhile, here's the cast from the original:

    Music: Songs sung by Frank Sinatra (Strangers in the Night, All the Way, That's Life, My Way, One For My Baby (And One More for the Road), Softly As I Leave You, Something Stupid, Forget Domani)

    Choreography by Twyla Tharp

    Costumes by Oscar de la Renta

    Lighting by Jennifer Tipton

    World Premiere: Twyla Tharp Dance, Queen Elizabeth Theatre, Vancouver, Canada, 10/14/82

    Original Cast: Shelley Washington, Keith Young, Mary Ann Kellogg, John Malashock, Sara Rudner, John Carrafa, Richard Colton, Christine Uchida, Raymond Kurshals, Amy Spencer, William Whitener, Jennifer Way, Tom Rawe, Shelley Freydont

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