Monday, July 27, 2009

RIP Merce Cunningham

Last night renowned contemporary choreographer Merce Cunningham died at the age of 90. Cunningham founded the Merce Cunningham Dance Company in 1953 after studying under Martha Graham. He was also know for his collaboration with composer John Cage (who was also his life partner) and with painters including Robert Rauschenberg and Andy Warhol. The Washington Post has more information about Cunningham's life and career. Here's some of Sarah Kaufman's article:

But his achievement is not limited to style, subject matter, quantity of works (nearly 200) or even the extraordinary longevity of his world-renowned troupe in a field known for spotty funding and wavering public support. Mr. Cunningham also invented radical working methods that exploded the mold and produced new ways of moving.

Simply put, Mr. Cunningham expanded what is possible in dance.

From his earliest works to his last, Mr. Cunningham flouted convention, embracing the unknown and the unpredictable. For example, in "eyeSpace" (2006), the audience was loaned pre-loaded iPods and encouraged to shuffle the specially commissioned musical selections at will.

Even toward the end of his life, when he was physically frail, crippled by arthritis, and his cloud of white hair had thinned to a mist, Mr. Cunningham was a fierce modernist. His commitment to contemporary music led him in his last years to creative partnerships with the wildly popular British art-rock band Radiohead and the minimalist Icelandic band Sigur Ros, both of whom performed live at the premiere of "Split Sides" in 2003.


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