(Biography, 368 pp, in German). Kennedy Center Honors, Washington DC Merce Cunningham was born on April 16, 1919 in Centralia, Washington. Award of Merit from the Association of Performing Arts Presenters, New York NY, 1989 Merce Cunningham Dance Company frequently collaborated with visual artists, architects, designers, and musicians. All images courtesy of Beth Weinstein.] Rauschenberg was also responsible for creating a new set for every show with items he found in the theatre. The American Merce Cunningham (born 1919) was a solo dancer of commanding presence, a controversial choreographer, an influential teacher, and an organizer of an internationally acclaimed avant-garde dance company. Many of Cunningham's most famous innovations were developed in collaboration with composer John Cage, his life partner. Cunningham began to study dance at 12 years of age. Nellie Cornish Arts Achievement Award from his alma mater, Cornish College of the Arts, Seattle WA, 1995 Jasper Johns followed as Artistic Advisor from 1967 until 1980, and Mark Lancaster from 1980 through 1984. He was also known to use the I Ching in order to bring exciting chance into the mix! His approach to performance was groundbreaking in its ideological simplicity and physical complexity: he applied the idea that “a thing is just that thing” to choreography, embracing the notion that "if the dancer dances, everything is there." From Merce's death at age 90 through the Board's last meeting in 2012, the Legacy Plan implemented his wish that the Company complete a worldwide legacy tour and then close. [22], In 2009, Cunningham's interest in new media led to the creation of the behind-the-scenes webcast Mondays with Merce. MATA (Music at the Anthology) Award, New York NY Now that you know more about this superlative dancer and choreographer, who embraced a modern aesthetic in a memorable and graceful way, you may want to learn more. [27], Suite for Five (1956–1958) As a … Music: David Tudor,Soundings: Ocean Diary and Andrew Culver, Ocean 1–95 The Mayor of New York's Award of Honor for Arts and Culture, New York NY, 1982 In 2008, Cunningham released his Loops choreography for the hands as motion-capture data under a Creative Commons license; this was the basis for the open-source collaboration of the same name with The OpenEnded Group. In 1945, Cunningham departed the dance company of Martha Graham and started working with John Cage. Cunningham Technique ® was developed by Merce Cunningham to train dancers for his company. 2012. [18] Merce Cunningham Dance Company in Assemblage. Music: Emanuel Dimas de Melo Pimenta, Short Waves & SBbr Such a clear thing, this toss of a die, or a handful of pennies, and yet chance is the part of the Cunningham dogma taken on faith, and dimly apprehended. While at the fine arts school in Seattle, Cunningham decided to major in dance, rather than focusing on theater as he’d planned. The career of Merce Cunningham (born 1919 in Centralia, Washington; died 2009 in New York City) was notable not only for its major achievement in contemporary dance but also for its many strong collaborations with major artists, designers and composers. We’ll also talk about just a handful of the awards and accolades that he received for his ground-breaking and compelling work. Today, she continues to be an unwavering supporter of their work. Accessed 27 June 2015. Those dances that did not "work" were quickly dropped from the repertory, while those that do were celebrated as serendipitous discoveries. Merce Cunningham just loved dancing. Fellowships from the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation, New York NY. Cunningham first experienced dance while living in Centralia. Décor: Henry Samelson, Blues Arrive Not Anticipating What Transpires Even Between Themselves Lighting: James F. Ingalls, Views on Stage (2004) Cunningham valued the process of a work over the product. The final performance of the Merce Cunningham Dance Company was on December 31, 2011, at the Park Avenue Armory in New York City. Cunningham created over 180 dances, many of which are in the repertories of ballet and modern dance companies worldwide. A coin was then tossed to determine each of these elements. Facts about Merce Cunningham 3: Merce Cunningham Dance Company. Merce Cunningham, who has died aged 90, was one of the greatest choreographers of the 20th century, and the greatest American-born one. Frank Stella/Artists Rights Society (ARS)/Courtesy WNET-TV New York Archives Music: John Cage, (Cheap Imitation) In 1953, Cunningham gathered four other dancers and formed the Merce Cunningham Dance Company. Costumes: Romeo Gigli for io ipse idem Over the course of his nearly 70-year career, Merce Cunningham (1919–2009) redefined the visual and performing arts through pioneering collaborations with leading artists, designers, and musicians. Because of his strong interest in the creation of the choreography he used chance procedures in his work. He became a soloist at her company and created a series of notable roles. Phrases from Merce Cunningham’s choreography are often included in the class. Cunningham formed Merce Cunningham Dance Company (MCDC) at Black Mountain College in 1953. Other artists who have collaborated with MCDC include Daniel Arsham, Tacita Dean, Liz Phillips, Rei Kawakubo, Roy Lichtenstein, Bruce Nauman, Ernesto Neto, Frank Stella, Benedetta Tagliabue, and Andy Warhol. Cage was destined to be his true love, as well as his work partner. Décor: Daniel Arsham, ODE/EON Costumes: James Hall In 1953, Cunningham Dance Company was formed at Black Mountain College. The Dorothy and Lillian Gish Prize, New York NY Cunningham was one of the first choreographers to begin experimenting with film. Music: John Cage, Aria (1958) and Fontana Mix (1958) He remained with Graham until he started his own troupe, the Merce Cunningham Dance Company, in 1953. He began to choreograph dances while attending the Cornish School of Fine Art. As part of these celebrations, SummerStage will host, Merce Cunningham: SummerCool, an evening of performances guest curated by 92nd Street Y’s Catherine Tharin, featuring the Stephen Petronio Company, which has incorporated several of Cunningham’s radical theater work into its repertoire; Melissa Toogood, a Bessie Award winning, former member of the Merce Cunningham Dance Company… After moving to New York City, he spent six years performing with the Martha Graham Dance Company. [23], The use of stage space also changed in Cunningham's choreography. Music: Mikel Rouse, International Cloud Atlas Décor, Costumes: Dove Bradshaw Another was deemed, “Mysterious Adventure”. Décor & Costumes: Jasper Johns [21], Cunningham's lifelong passion for exploration and innovation made him a leader in applying new technologies to the arts. A trio of exhibitions devoted to John Cage, Robert Rauschenberg, and Merce Cunningham, curated by Ron Bishop, was shown in the spring of 2002 at the Gallery of Fine Art, Edison College, Fort Myers, Florida. They include Paul Taylor, Remy Charlip, Viola Farber, Charles Moulton, Karole Armitage, Robert Kovich, Foofwa d'Imobilité, Kimberly Bartosik, Flo Ankah, Jan Van Dyke, Jonah Bokaer, and Alice Reyes. Throughout his career, Cunningham choreographed more than 200 dances and over 800 "Events," or site-specific choreographic works. Its repertory included works by musicians ranging from John Cage and Gordon Mumma to Gavin Bryars as well as popular bands like Radiohead, Sigur Rós and Sonic Youth.[17]. His approach to performance was groundbreaking in its ideological simplicity and physical complexity: he applied the idea that “a thing is just that thing” to choreography, embracing the notion that "if the dancer dances, everything is there." Lighting: Josh Johnson, Nearly Ninety (2009) On the occasion of his ninetieth birthday, Brooklyn’s Academy of Music put on a performance of his last work, which was titled, Nearly Ninety. [6] He attended the Cornish School in Seattle, headed by Nellie Cornish, from 1937 to 1939 to study acting, but found drama's reliance on text and miming too limiting and concrete. One of the most innovative artists of the 20 th century, Merce Cunningham employed a range of tactics to create his sometimes difficult dance productions that confounded and delighted viewers. These days, Merce Cunningham’s spirit lives on through the Merce Cunningham Trust. After 1995, MCDC's music director was Takehisa Kosugi. Cunningham choreographed almost 200 works for his company. Décor: Andy Warhol (Silver Clouds) Merce Cunningham (April 16, 1919–July 26, 2009) is widely considered to be one of the most important choreographers of all time. Nijinsky Special Prize, Monaco The technique emphasizes clarity of form, coordination of torso and legwork, rhythmic accuracy, spatial awareness and virtuosity. He also received Japan's Praemium Imperiale and a British Laurence Olivier Award, and was named Officier of the Légion d'honneur in France. He added elements of chance during his creation of dances. Instead of finding out what you think should follow—say a particular sound—what did the I Ching suggest? The Merce Cunningham Dance Company amplified the solos performed by Baryshnikov with material from events, excerpts from the repertory. Known for his penchant for chance, he brought exciting new elements into contemporary choreography. Merce Cunningham grew up in Centrailia, Washington, and began dancing at age 20. Airs on American Masters, 9:00 p.m. Sunday, December 16, 2001, on PBS affiliates (check local listings). Merce Cunningham, 1981. [8] In 1939, Cunningham moved to New York and danced as a soloist in the Martha Graham Dance Company for six years. Merce Cunningham, Director: Variations V. Merce Cunningham was born on April 16, 1919 in Centralia, Washington, USA as Mercier Philip Cunningham. At this post-secondary educational institution, he became friends with John Cage, who was a composer. Cunningham explored motion capture technology with digital artists Paul Kaiser and Shelley Eshkar to create Hand-drawn Spaces, a three-screen animation that was commissioned by and premiered at SIGGRAPH in 1998. Lighting: Brian MacDevitt By other provisions of the plan, the Merce Cunningham Trust, established by Cunningham to serve as the custodian for his works, controls his dances for licensing purposes; Cunningham associates prepared detailed records of the dances so they could be licensed and given authentic productions by other companies. Music: Conlon Nancarrow (from Rhythm Studies for Player Piano) He lived for the act of dancing itself and the feeling of vitality that it gave him. Robert Rauschenberg, whose famous "Combines" reflect the approach he used to create décor for several MCDC's early works, served as the Company's resident designer from 1954 through 1964. While he was a teenager, he learned more about dancing, via a vaudevillian and circus performer named Maude Barrett. Guided by its leader's radical approach to space, time and technology, the Company has forged a distinctive style, reflecting Cunningham's technique and illuminating the near limitless possibility for human movement. He also had a short stint at George Washington University. Music: John Paul Jones, Takehisa Kosugi, Sonic Youth All images courtesy of Beth Weinstein.] Cunningham earned some of the highest honours bestowed in the arts, including the National Medal of Arts and the MacArthur Fellowship. They also collaborated on a host of works, including “The Seasons”, which was performed during 1947, and “Inlets”, which was performed during 1952. Guided by its leader's radical approach to space, time and technology, the Company has forged a distinctive style, reflecting Cunningham's technique and illuminating the near limitless possibility for human movement. Music: John Cage, ASLSP and Music for Two Such a clear thing, this toss of a die, or a handful of pennies, and yet chance is the part of the Cunningham dogma taken on faith, and dimly apprehended. One of this first works was called “Root of an Unfocus”. MacNeil-Lehrer Productions, 1999. At the end of the 1990s, he received the Isadora Duncan Dance Award, which recognized his lifetime achievement in his field. 725 Vineland Place, Minneapolis, MN 55403 (612) 375-7600 In 2009, MCDC premiered Cunningham's newest work, Nearly Ninety, at the Brooklyn Academy of Music. In the 1990s, he made into the National Museum of Dance’s Hall of Fame. Décor & Costumes: Robert Rauschenberg, Plank Bagley Wright Fund Established Artists Award, Seattle WA, 1997 Few dancers and/or choreographers have been so innovative and so passionate about their craft. Honorary degree from Wesleyan University, Middletown CT Merce always believed that people who committed their lives to dancing did so because they loved it. Airs on American Masters, 9:00 p.m. Sunday, December 16, 2001, on PBS affiliates (check local listings). With Carolyn Brown, John Cage, Ashley Chen, Brandon Collwes. Music: David Behrman, Long Throw and/or Annea Lockwood, Jitterbug Video of Roaratorio, by John Cage, and Sounddance, by David Tudor, as choreographed by Merce Cunningham for his dance company. Honorary degree from Edith Cowan University, Perth, Western Australia, 2000 Fellow of the Academy of Performing Arts, Hong Kong [7] During this time, Martha Graham saw Cunningham dance and invited him to join her company. As he created his new works, his romance with John Cage evolved. He subsequently studied at Mills College (1938) with dancer and choreographer Lester Horton and at Bennington College (1939), where he was invited by Martha Graham to join her group. During this time, she established a life-long friendship with Cunningham and Cage. [12], MCDC made its first international tour in 1964, visiting Europe and Asia.[12]. This led to a live dance for the stage, BIPED, for which Kaiser and Eshkar provided the projected decor. Merce Cunningham. Professional WordPress Theme by Themehaus. Nelson A. Rockefeller Award, Purchase College School of the Arts, State University of New York Medal of the Society for the Advancement of Dancing in Sweden, Stockholm, 1959 & 1954 As well, his long relationship with John Cage was heartwarming and very inspirational in term of driving him to produce his best work. The Merce Cunningham Dance Company amplified the solos performed by Baryshnikov with material from events, excerpts from the repertory. MacArthur Fellowship from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, Chicago IL, 1984 [Photo by Terry Stevenson. Golden Lion of the Venice Biennale, Italy, 1993 In 1964, the Merce Cunningham Dance Company embarked on a six-month world tour that catapulted the company to world fame and renown, while at the same time creating internal tensions. From 1971 until its dissolution in 2012, the company was based in the Westbeth Artists Community in West Village; for a time Cunningham himself lived a block away at 107 Bank Street, with John Cage. Such non-representational dance appears in many styles throughout history, but was not commonly used by ballet or Martha Graham, Cunningham's primary influences. Merce Cunningham: A Lifetime of Dance . Merce Cunningham grew up in Centrailia, Washington, and began dancing at age 20. Merce also attended Mills College during 1938 and went to Bennington College the next year. Directed by Alla Kovgan. Both pieces were inspired by the works of … He started his life in Centralia, Washington and ended his days in the Big Apple. He died in his home at the age of 90.[11]. What’s wonderful about the Trust is that it licenses his work, so that it may be performed by modern dance groups today. The Merce Cunningham Dance Company returns to New York City—its home since its founding in 1953—for six historic final performances at the Armory, culminating a two-year farewell Legacy Tour that brought the Company to more than 50 destinations worldwide. Each dancer was given a sequence of movements with which they could do as they pleased. He continued to lead his company until his death, and presented a new work, Nearly Ninety, in April 2009, at the Brooklyn Academy of Music, New York, to mark his 90th birthday. Video Design: Franc Aleu, 2009 Merce Cunningham's Final Bow After last year's death of its renowned choreographer, the Merce Cunningham Dance Company embarks on a final tour before disbanding and … During 1952, he made history by creating choreography (Suite by Chance) which was performed alongside electronic music. La Grande Médaille de la Ville de Paris (echelon vermeil) from the Mayor of Paris Contact Us Have a question or request? Photo by James Klosty 1968. Merce Cunningham (April 16, 1919–July 26, 2009) is widely considered to be one of the most important choreographers of all time. 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