Merce Cunningham

From Academic Kids

Merce Cunningham is a choreographer born in 1919. He was a long-term collaborator with and romantic partner of John Cage.

Cunningham received his first formal dance and theater training at the Cornish College of the Arts where he met John Cage, who was a piano accompanist for dance classes. Later he moved to New York and studied at the American School of Ballet. From 1939 to 1945 he was a soloist in Martha Graham's dance company, choreographing Paul Bowles' light opera The Wind Remains in 1943. He presented his first New York solo concert with John Cage in April 1944 and founded the Merce Cunningham Dance Company in the summer of 1953 with its first performances at Black Mountain College.

Merce (as he is often simply called) developed a method of creating known as "Chance Operations," which he refined in close collaboration with Cage, his life partner. Influenced by zen and Dadaism, he would invite a musician to create a score and an arist to create a visual environment while he created a choreography. Each would work on their charge separately and would unite the elements for the first time on stage before an audience. Although considered an abrogation of artistic responsibility by some, Merce is thrilled by a process that arrives at works that could never have been created through traditional collaboration. This does not mean, however, that Merce holds every piece created in this fashion as a masterpiece. Those dances that do not "work" are quickly dropped from repertory, while the happy accidents are celebrated as serendipitous discoveries. In this fashion chance operations are similar to improvisation, used as a tool of creation by many artists.

Although well into his eighties and no longer able to dance, Cunningham continues to choreograph with the aid of computer software.

Related articles

Further reading

  • Bremser, M. (Ed) (1999) Fifty Contemporary Choreographers. Routledge. ISBN 0415103649
  • Cunningham, M. and Lesschaeve, J. (1992) The Dancer and the Dance. Marion Boyars Publishers. ISBN 0714529311
  • Vaughn, David (1999) Merce Cunningham: Fifty Years. Aperture. ISBN 0893818631
  • Kostelanetz, R. (1998) Merce Cunningham: Dancing in Space and Time. Da Capo Press. ISBN 0306808773

External links

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