Merce Cunningham

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Merce Cunningham
Mercier Philip Cunningham
BirthplaceCentralia, Washington
Dancer, choreographer

Cunningham, Merce

(Mercier Philip Cunningham), 1919–2009, American modern dancer and choreographer, b. Centralia, Wash. Cunningham studied modern dance with Martha GrahamGraham, Martha,
1894–1991, American dancer, choreographer, and teacher, b. Pittsburgh. Her family moved from Allegheny, Pa., to Santa Barbara, Calif., when she was 14.
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 and ballet at BalanchineBalanchine, George
, 1904–83, American choreographer and ballet dancer, b. St. Petersburg, Russia, as Georgi Balanchivadze. The son of a Georgian composer and a Russian mother, Balanchine attended (1913–21) the Imperial Ballet School, St.
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's School of American Ballet. A superb dancer, long-bodied, long-necked, and lean with an amazing ability to jump, he was a soloist in Graham's company from 1940 to 1955. He presented his first work in 1942 and formed his own company in 1953, creating innovative dances to the music of avant-garde composers, including his life partner and musical director John CageCage, John,
1912–92, American composer, b. Los Angeles. A leading figure in the musical avant-garde from the late 1930s, he attended Pomona College and later studied with Arnold Schoenberg, Adolph Weiss, and Henry Cowell.
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. His company began touring the world in 1964. His best-known early works include Suite by Chance and Symphonie pour un homme seul (both 1952), which reveal his spare, expressive style. Devoted to the new, Cunningham redefined dance. Often dealing with the isolation of dancers in space, his usually plotless works are composed of abrupt changes and suspensions of motion, where one part of the body is pitted against another part. Some dances are performed by dancer movingautonomously in chance sequences, and dances often occur in a decentralized stage space where movement and music both coexist and are independent of one another.

Cunningham also was known for collaborations with American artists, including Andy WarholWarhol, Andy,
1928–87, American artist and filmmaker, b. Pittsburgh as Andrew Warhola. The leading exponent of the pop art movement and one of the most influential artists of the late 20th cent., he is regarded by some as the most important artist of his era.
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, Robert RauschenbergRauschenberg, Robert
, 1925–2008, American painter, b. Port Arthur, Tex., as Milton Ernest Rauschenberg. He studied at the Kansas City Art Institute, with Josef Albers at Black Mountain College, and at New York's Art Students League.
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, and Jasper JohnsJohns, Jasper,
1930–, American artist, b. Augusta, Ga. Influenced by Marcel Duchamp in the mid-1950s, Johns attempted to transform common objects into art by placing them in an art context.
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, who created sets and costumes integral to his productions. He created nearly 200 works for his company, appearing in all of them until he reached the age of 70 and dancing in many new works thereafter. During his later years he was widely considered the world's greatest living choreographer. Later dances include Locale and Duets (both 1980); Inlets 2 (1983); Fabrications (1987); Trackers (1991), the first work he created with the aid of a computer; Crwdspcr (1994); Installations (1996); Scenario (1997); Biped (1999), a work employing motion-capture technology; Way Station (2001); Split Sides (2003), with music by the experimental rock bands Radiohead and Sigur Ros; Xover (2007); and Nearly Ninety (2009). After he died, his company made a legacy tour before disbanding (2011), but several former dancers have taught his technique, and many works continued to be performed.


See his Changes: Notes on Choreography (1968) and The Dancer and Dance (1985); C. Brown, Chance and Circumstance: Twenty Years with Cage and Cunningham (2007); biography by D. Vaughan (1997); studies by J. Klosty (1975, repr. 1986), R. Kostelanetz, ed. (1992), G. Celant, ed. (1999), and R. Copeland (2004); C. Atlas, dir, Merce Cunningham: A Lifetime of Dance (documentary film, 2002).

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References in periodicals archive ?
Eliot's account of Catherine Kerr's role in the making of Merce Cunningham's choreography reveals the extent to which the dancer's physicality plays an important role in shaping the choreographic vision.
And while the definitive biography remains to be written, the strength of Merce Cunningham: Fifty Years is, as its title suggests, in its archival record-keeping (especially since the 1975 Merce Cunningham, edited by James Klosty, marks the only example of a book-length study of this dancer/choreographer).
"Merce Cunningham: Common Time," curated by Fionn Meade and Philip Bither with Joan Rothfuss and Mary L.
The crew has gone on to film in New York, Los Angeles, and Moscow, and will document the final weeks of the merce Cunningham Dance Company.
But Merce Cunningham was, as usual, ahead of the curve.
ROBERT SWINSTON, a graduate of the Juilliard School, danced with the Martha Graham Apprentice Group, Jose Limon Dance Company, and with Kazuko Hirabayashi Dance Theatre before joining the Merce Cunningham Dance Company in 1980.
One of the earlier pieces, the lyrical, Satie-inspired Experiences, was written for dancer-choreographer Merce Cunningham, Cage's partner and artistic collaborator for almost five decades.
It had been more than three years since New Yorkers had seen a Merce Cunningham evening (Cunningham's company ended its Legacy Tour in 2011), and the young French dancers of Compagnie CNDC-Angers/Robert Swinston bristled with the alertness that makes the master's choreography so bracing.
Given Merce Cunningham's lifelong capacity for reinvention, it is no surprise that he is posthumously pushing the Walker Art Center to rethink how and what it collects.
THE MERCE CUNNINGHAM DANCE Company made a world tour in 1964.
It's been more than four years since the Merce Cunningham Dance Company took its last bow.