Monday, July 27, 2009

Ode to Merce Cunningham

Merce Cunningham passed away yesterday evening.  This is a pretty big deal in the dance world... Merce Cunningham was a big deal...   When I heard I took out my dance history books to read some tributes to Merce.  When looking up his name in the index, there are endless pages devoted to him, his work, his company, his technique, and his dancers- and rightfully so -he changed the world of modern dance.

A quick sum up:  Merce danced in the Martha Graham company (another dance great).  At that time dances were created with a narrative, a theme, a story, and a climax.  Merce had great technique and was an amazingly captivating performer.  He was the first to believe that a dance should and could just be about the dance - a story didn't have to accompany it.  He collaborated greatly with the musician John Cage.  Cage and Cunningham believed that music and dance did not have to be created for one another... in a sense a piece of music could be composed while a dance was being composed completely separately and they could still in the end work well together.  Cunningham also used chance to create works known as "chance dances."  In a sense movement was performed in the order it was drawn from a hat... sometimes it worked, sometimes it didn't, an amazing process no matter the result.  Ultimately, Cunningham's theories about dance lead to a greater exploration and appreciation of all the body is capable of.

I don't have a great gift for words or poetry- so I am not doing this "ode" justice... honestly I'm tired and ready for bed - but Cunningham is definitely on my mind...

Read more about Cunningham's life and contributions in this New York Times Article, Merce Cunningham, Dance Visionary, dies

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