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"Nearly Ninety"

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Alastair Macauley has a not entirely positive but very enticing review of this new dance in the Times today.

The first trio is the most immediately striking: Holley Farmer (the most authoritative and audacious of Mr. Cunningham’s current dancers, never more riveting), with Koji Mizuta and Silas Riener. In one image Ms. Farmer is pivoted in a diagonal line (about 30 degrees off the floor) between the two men; Mr. Riener is on his back, Mr. Mizuta upright. The concentration of all three (Mr. Riener is doing as much to push Ms. Farmer upward as Mr. Mizuta is to keep her from falling) is sensational. The image changes, but the concentration continues. Then, halfway through the trio, she takes charge, seeming to pull the two men slowly but adamantly across the stage.

There is a photo of the first moment in the accompanying slideshow. Did anyone here see the program? I'd love to know what you thought!

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Leigh Witchel's review from the Post:


The great choreographer's first performance at BAM was 55 years ago. Now modern dance's senior master, he makes dances from chance combinations, and the deliberate randomness yields things both surprising and beautiful.

Unlike Balanchine, Cunningham doesn't always put choreography front and center, and his music and designs are a big part of the draw. The dancers wore space-age unitards by Italian designer Romeo Gigli, but the coup de theatre was Benedetta Tagliabue's set, a glowing structure of platforms and tubing that seemed part magical tower, part malevolent command station.

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Alastair Macauley has a not entirely positive but very enticing review of this new dance in the Times today.

Of all the “modern” dance choreographers whose work has been seen in London, I think no other has been taken into the hearts of our dance public as has Merce Cunningham.

In Alistair MaCaulay’s assessment of the choreographer in the Times Dance Review of 18 April, http://www.nytimes.com/2009/04/18/arts/dance/18merc.html goes a long way to establish his significance for a new audience when he says, “It is not unusual these days to hear Merce Cunningham called the world’s greatest living choreographer. I go further: I have long thought that he is the greatest living artist since the death of Samuel Beckett, almost 20 years ago.” That is not a comparison I would be brave enough to make, but I believe it to be honestly heartfelt.

His review of ‘”Nearly Ninety” is certainly ”enticing” kfw, as he judiciously advises his readers as to the intrinsic values of the great man’s work, but still keeps his objectivity placed where an independent critic should.

Leigh in his review, mentions the quality of the dancers excellence, which has always for me, been reflected in their apparent natural assumption of Cunningham’s language as if spoken from childhood.

Leigh then paints a memorable picture at which he was present and if I might ever assume some small envy, it is in his description of the finale to the evening. “Afterward, the company gathered onstage as Cunningham arrived, seated in his wheelchair, looking regal in a velvet suit. Audra McDonald sang a birthday song by Dr. Seuss, and then the whole audience, 2,000 strong, sang the familiar birthday song. There was a cake, of course. How could such a momentous event be without one? “

I wish I had been there.

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I attended the performance on Friday evening. The dancers, as always, were fantastic, and the choreography was inventive . The dancers wore unitard body suits. The set looked like a space ship command center. The set, which is where the musicians were seated, was enormous and took up most of the stage space. The only negative was the "music", which to me was offensive noise most of the time. This is a problem I have with a lot of Cunningham work. The sound can be sooooo loud. There were various projections on a scrim. I enjoyed the performance. However, my favorite Cunningham work continues to be Biped.

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And here's Joan Acocella in The New Yorker

It's an interesting, insightful piece. By the way, she hated the set ("a fright") and the music ("simply ugly and trifling," and not up to the standards of Cage, though similar in approach).

There were, in the choreography itself, a few things that remind her of some problems she was with Cunningham's work generally:

Because our minds are so much more drawn to stories and pictures than to abstraction, Cunningham makes a special effort to right the balance, add vinegar to the oil. In "Nearly Ninety," the excellent Daniel Madoff does a vaulting run across the stage. That could be read as happiness, right? So Cunningham punctuates the leaps with an odd, spasmodic move [...]

For those who love Cunningham's work, this recoil from sentimentality -- the insistence on the pre-psychological character of dance -- is a big part of what they love. And for those who dislike his work it's probably what they dislike most. It's also the reason that Cunningham is so hard to write about.

And this:

I have never got used to Cunningham's music, or, despite my respect for his anti-sentimentalism, to his related rejection of classical form -- the fact that he jumbles the parts of his dances, in order to forestall developmenet and climax, which he apparently things are corny. (Climax, he once said, is for those who get excited over New Year's Eve.)

On the other hand, by now I can't imagine him otherwise. For his anti-classicism and his anti-lyricism, together with his more ingratiating qualities, notably the cleanness and intensity of his dances, he will always be recognized as the foremost representative of high modernism -- the Joyce-Pound-Beckett kind -- in the history of modern dance, and as a creator of beauty and meaning on their level.

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Apollinaire Scherr reviewed the program in The Financial Times.

Nearly Nintely, Brooklyn Academy of Music, New York

Sometimes the encounter is electric. Sometimes everyone stays in his corner nursing his drink. And sometimes a drunken lout shows up to spoil things. On Thursday at the Brooklyn Academy of Music, where the 90-minute Nearly Ninety had its world premiere, there were two louts. At least the art-rockers Sonic Youth – joined by longtime Led Zeppelin guitarist John Paul Jones and Cunningham musical director Takehisa Kosugi – knew how to behave, delivering a textured wall of sound to intensify the dance’s moods. But architect Benedetta Tagliabue’s massive shipwreck of a set confined the dancers to a strip at the front of the stage and Franc Aleu’s trippy light show created such visual din that you had to exert yourself to take in the dance at all.

Ms. Scherr followed up on her blog "foot in mouth":


I also agree with Alastair Macaulay in the Times that the number of hapless collaborations--with musicians and particularly artists--has grown in the last several years. The big problem for me is when the companion arts push in a narrative or social direction, precisely where Cunningham doesn't go. (I'm thinking of the Robert Gober slides at the last Joyce Event and Mikel Rouse's folkish songs, with words, for eyeSpace.)
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