Jump to content
sandik

Celebrating Merce Cunningham centennial

Recommended Posts

2019 is the centennial of Cunningham's birth, and there have been a multitude of projects to honor that milestone -- today is the 100 Solos livestream project, where 100 dancers, in three different locations/time zones, will perform solo work by the choreographer.  These will be available for streaming on the Cunningham website for the next three months, so even if you have to tend to the rest of life today, you can dip into this amazing repertory later.

And here's a great piece from the radio show Studio 360 that includes some really wonderful interview material with Cunningham.

Share this post


Link to post

Thank you for those links, sandik. I would be interested to hear from anyone who sees the "Night of 100 Solos" live, as well.

Share this post


Link to post
Posted (edited)

Did not know about the streaming of the 100 solos project--thank you for posting!

Edited by Drew

Share this post


Link to post

I dipped in and out of the live stream, and am looking forward to filling in the blanks over the next few weeks!  It's such a bracing repertory.

Share this post


Link to post
Posted (edited)

Saw bits and pieces of the works streamed and my impressions agreed with canbelto's review, though I have a much less practiced eye for Cunningham's subtleties. What I did feel is the loss of a certain propulsive quality of Cunningham phrasing. No matter what wobbles there were in the old days, sometimes charming, there was always a certain logic of how the steps inevitably related to each other, how they bubbled forth out of each other. That was missing here.

Did Cunningham ever used Marcel Duchamp stills as backdrops? Didn't quite work for me. I did like the Pat Steir veils at BAM though.

NYT: "Pat Steir Gets Discovered, Again":

Quote

[Steir] is creating projections of her “Waterfall” paintings as the sets for the centennial celebration of the choreographer Merce Cunningham on April 16, at the Brooklyn Academy of Music.

This project feels special to her because Cunningham’s longtime partner, the composer John Cage, was a close friend (he joined Ms. Steir and her husband, Joost Elffers, on their honeymoon in 1984). Mr. Cage’s ideas about chance profoundly influenced her dramatic change in working method five years later, when she began to explore the incident and accident of pouring paint.

https://www.nytimes.com/2019/01/18/arts/design/pat-steir-barnes-foundation-waterfall-kiki-smith-feminist.html

Edited by Quiggin

Share this post


Link to post

 

13 hours ago, canbelto said:

I went to the Merce Cunningham celebration at the Joyce last night which featured Ballet West and Washington Ballet.

https://bachtrack.com/review-merce-cunningham-centennial-joyce-theater-new-york-april-2019

"There are many clips of Merce Cunningham himself dancing. It's not an exaggeration to say that he is one of the greatest dancers of all time. His signature movements – raising one's foot on high demi-pointe while extending a leg forward and balancing in sculptural stillness, the astonishing array of direction-changing jumps, the deep squats into the floor – those are moves that when danced by him and his amazing dance troupe look as natural as breathing. "

I heard Douglas Dunn speak recently -- he described Cunningham's dancing as that of an "elegant animal." 

Share this post


Link to post

How can individual dance works survive the inevitable challenges posed by the passage of time without favorably impressing persons who view them for the first time? As a newcomer to Cunningham, my feeling was that two of the three works presented in honor of his centenary this past week at the Joyce were strikingly beautiful.

After the performance Thursday evening, somebody asked about the lack of emotion intrinsic in the choreography, and opined that the dancers on the stage looked like automatons. This is a concern often expressed about abstract dance. In response, Robert Swinston—artistic director of Compagnie CNDC-Angers, and a former dancer in Cunningham’s company—said that the choreographer never instructed his dancers not to emote, and that it was left to each performer how to interpret a part and up to the audience how to react to it.

Partly due to the peculiar John Cage percussive score punctuated by lengthy silences, and partly on account of some unappealing costumes and weak casting choices, Duets—a work for six couples dating from 1980 and performed last on the program by The Washington Ballet—sadly appeared to me mechanical and unattractive.

In contrast, Suite for Five (1956) performed by Compagnie CNDC-Angers and Summerspace (1958) by Ballet West were glorious. In addition to the sheer beauty of the movement and poses, the fertile imagination displayed by Cunningham in these two works furnishes both with an enduring free-spirited and improvisational aspect. More than half a century after their creation, they appear permanently futuristic. This sensation is enhanced by the surprisingly effective, quietly entrancing minimalist music by Cage and Morton Feldman. In both pieces, moreover, the costumes and set design are gorgeous and adorned with brilliant colors. Such beauty in dance should generate emotion!

All five individuals from Angers were attractive, solid dancers whose performances elicited curiosity as well as appreciation for Cunningham's choreography. Particularly captivating were Catarina Pernão and Anna Chirescu, and the parts they danced. The six dancers from Ballet West were similarly attractive and solid in Summerspace, with Katlyn Addison and Chelsea Keefer and their roles enthralling me in that dazzling piece the most. Although in a marvelous sequence requiring arduous jumps not nearly as powerful as the latter, Gabrielle Salvatto as a replacement in this key part happily proved otherwise superb.

Naturally, it is exciting that NYCB will be performing Summerspace in the fall, and makes one wonder about potential casting. In addition to all other considerations, the roles require strong jumping abilities. In the Addison part, Teresa Reichlen would be sublime. Even more interesting will be to see who is cast in Keefer's role.

Regardless, the performances at the Joyce have aroused my interest in further exploring Cunningham's work.

 

Share this post


Link to post
On 4/18/2019 at 12:08 PM, Quiggin said:

 

Did Cunningham ever used Marcel Duchamp stills as backdrops?

Walkaround Time, in the 1970s

Share this post


Link to post
On 4/22/2019 at 12:22 PM, Royal Blue said:

How can individual dance works survive the inevitable challenges posed by the passage of time without favorably impressing persons who view them for the first time? As a newcomer to Cunningham, my feeling was that two of the three works presented in honor of his centenary this past week at the Joyce were strikingly beautiful.

Keep your eyes open for a screening of If the Dancer Dances -- a documentary about reconstructing Cunningham's Rainforest on the Stephen Petronio company.  Lots to consider about the process of reconstruction, and issues surrounding changes in style.

Share this post


Link to post
On 4/27/2019 at 3:05 PM, sandik said:

Walkaround Time, in the 1970s

Thanks for the link. The Walkaround sets are Jasper Johns' versions of the Duchamp Glass – funny blocks of stage furniture that look like oversized cribs or aquariums alongside the dancers. I now realize the Barbican projections were part of a project originally done by Richard Hamilton for Cunningham in 2005. They do look a little flat and low contrast as filmed. I like the score that Christian Wolff directs.

 

Share this post


Link to post
On 4/27/2019 at 6:09 PM, sandik said:

Keep your eyes open for a screening of If the Dancer Dances -- a documentary about reconstructing Cunningham's Rainforest on the Stephen Petronio company.  Lots to consider about the process of reconstruction, and issues surrounding changes in style.

Thank you for informing me about this documentary, which I intend to see at the first opportunity. Of course, you are absolutely correct about there being much to ponder here. My thinking is that the essence of a great work of dance—that is, its essential beauty—will always survive any changes in style that occur due to the passage of time. 

Share this post


Link to post
2 hours ago, Royal Blue said:

Thank you for informing me about this documentary, which I intend to see at the first opportunity. Of course, you are absolutely correct about there being much to ponder here. My thinking is that the essence of a great work of dance—that is, its essential beauty—will always survive any changes in style that occur due to the passage of time. 

Come back and tell me more about what you think after you see this -- perhaps we are just seeing different things, but one of my takeaways from this film is how radically style/technique has changed over the last 30 years.  Watching the Petronio dancers wrestle with those challenges was fascinating.  The film is running here in Seattle at Northwest Film Forum May 10-16, for those in my corner of the world.

Share this post


Link to post

I enjoyed reading Artforum's recent reviews of the Cunningham evenings and found this comment about the difference between dancing ballet and dancing Cunningham helpful. From the London review:

Quote

Another hole was made evident by the performances of the professional ballet dancers, who at times seemed to lapse back into the stylization they are used to. Cunningham drew on classical technique, but left out its ornamentation and sentimental flourishes. For one: Ballet asks a dancer to finish, whereas Cunningham asks them to stop. Ballet’s finish is often a lyrical phrasing that suggests a romantic curling off of a line into the ether, a slight gesture or nod of the head to mimic the musical accent. Cunningham’s stops are blunter punctuations, almost lists of possible tilts or curves, syncopated jumps or accented limb-stabs. The thrill of his work is not procured by ethereal sylphs or emotional heroism but by the seemingly illogical and contradictory shifts of the dancer’s body in several directions at once.

and this from the Los Angeles review:

Quote

More importantly, the evening offered audiences some long-overdue what-ifs. What if a Cunningham cast was diverse in age, race, body type, and training? I was knocked out by the backbend of a very young man that built on the bridges executed by a much older dancer. There were multiple performers of color on stage at once—a much-needed change. What if more of the effort required to perform a Cunningham dance was allowed to show?

London - Michael Hargreaves

https://www.artforum.com/performance/martin-hargreaves-on-the-london-celebration-of-merce-cunningham-s-100th-birthday-79580

Los Angeles - Megan Metcalf

https://www.artforum.com/performance/megan-metcalf-on-the-los-angeles-celebration-of-merce-cunningham-s-100th-birthday-79579

New York - Deborah Jowett

https://www.artforum.com/performance/night-of-100-solos-a-centennial-eventnew-york-79578

Share this post


Link to post

Many thanks for the Artforum links -- I'd read Jowitt's review, but hadn't seen the others.

Lots to think about, still considering the changes in style and how the work is revealed by folks who aren't at home in the tradition.  But also wondering how far away you can go from the source material and still say it's a Cunningham work.  I have a feeling, as we get further and further from the 20th c greats, we will have plenty of opportunities to think about that process...

Share this post


Link to post
  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    No registered users viewing this page.

×
×
  • Create New...