This New Years Eve, 2011 will mark the final performance by the Merce Cunningham Dance Company. Just two short years after Merce Cunningham’s death in 2009, the company will give their last show at the end of this year before disbanding for good. As Merce wished, they are not to be reassembled, but in a very artful fashion, will be remembered with bittersweet reminiscence.
It is impossible to discuss Merce Cunningham without mentioning John Cage. The duo had incredible influence on the dance movement that would come to be known as post modern dance. Cunningham is best known for his work with chance procedures and this largely corresponds to the way in which Cage created sound scores. More than simply creating a codified movement structure, Cunningham proliferated an ideology for sourcing movement that infiltrated many areas of artistic creation including art, music, and dance.
Cunningham approached movement, sound décor, space and time with complete disconnection to each. He felt that he could only be free to create when these elements were kept separate of one another. This created a “disregard for unity and his elimination of what he felt were extraneous elements—story line, emotion, self-expressive symbolism, glamorous theatrical accessories—produced a pared-down system of pure movement and style of presentation that audiences were unprepared for…”. The relationship between music, set and dance was undetermined, which gave the audience member an opportunity to create their own relationships or to simply become engaged in the discord.
Cunningham’s methods came from his study of existentialism and Zen philosophies that questioned “responsibility, risk, and lack of resolution”. Combining artists from so many fields—artists, musicians, and dancers—made it easier for Cunningham to acquire financial support that he needed to continue working in his choreographic research. It was this inventive choreographic process to which he dedicated almost seven decades of his life, and a process that eventually became the postmodern habit. Touching so many realms of performance art with his avant-garde style, he devised the art of re-invention in dance movement. Whether it was using the art of Andy Warhol, the sound from tin cans, or the chance methods of combining chunks of work just minutes before a show, Merce Cunningham developed an approach for creating dance that influenced an inconceivable number of dancers.
The company’s final performance will happen at the Park Avenue Armory in New York City on December 29-31, 2011. As stated on the Merce Cunningham Dance Company website, the Legacy Tour is to celebrate, “Cunningham’s lifetime of artistic achievement”. It goes on to say, “the Legacy Tour has showcased seminal works from throughout Cunningham’s career, and offered audiences around the world a final opportunity to see Cunningham’s choreography performed by the company he personally trained. Encompassing 60 engagements in nearly 50 cities, the Legacy Tour has brought MCDC to new destinations around the world, and included performances at venues throughout Europe and the United States that have been pivotal in showcasing the Company for the past 50 years.”
Ticket prices vary, but are very affordable. See the MCDC website for more information.
Tour Information is available on the site as well.
Sources Cited: McCormick, Malcolm; Reynolds, Nancy. No Fixed Points:Dance in the Twentieth Century. NewHaven, CT. Yale UP. 2003