Merce Cunningham: A Lifetime of Greatness
Merce Cunningham, renowned, respected, and revered choreographer passed away last night, Sunday July 26th 2009, in his sleep at the age of ninety. Cunningham, who dared to take dance to the extreme through experimentation with music and art as interdisciplinary aspects of the movement, is often considered the father of contemporary dance. He was one of the first to take dance out of the narrative and make dance just for the pure dynamic expression of movement through space.
Cunningham’s collaboration with John Cage, one of the greatest American composers, pushed the limits by entertaining dance with original scores of music that had never been practiced together until a performance. Cunningham set intricate pieces of movement to counts and silence, and at the performance the dancers danced to the music for the very first time. Without Cunningham, we would never have seen some dance greats like Paul Taylor, Twyla Tharp, Trisha Brown, Bill T. Jones, and countless others who started their careers in the Merce Cunningham Dance Company.
In Cunningham’s Will he expressed that his company shall tour for only two years after his death, and then dissolve immediately thereafter. Seven decades of Cunningham shall come to a halt in two short years. The Cunningham company is set to perform a site-specific work at the Rockafeller Park in Battery Park City as park of New York City’s River to River Festival on August 1st and 2nd. It is a free event, so go if you can, it may be one of the last times you will be able to see the Merce Cunningham Dance Company free.
River to River Festival
Photo by Annie Leibovitz
Rest in Peace Merce, may you live on in every dancer’s heart forever.