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Merce Cunningham Dance Company

Event at the Barbican

by Cassandra

June 19, 2005 matinee -- Barbican, London

Each of the performances of “Event” are unique, with different sets and different musicians but the entire company of dancers. To quote from the programme: "The Events are a collage, made up of elements from the repertory and new material developed especially for the particular event".

The backdrop is simple: a giant articulated comic figure, that rises almost imperceptibly, centimetre by centimetre into the flies, so that finally all that is visible is a pair of dangling calves (oddly the figure possesses no feet) leaving a glimpse of the empty backstage area.

The fourteen dancers, both sexes dressed in identical all over tights in dark blue, make fast entrances and exits in a variety of combinations from full company to solo dancer, but returning again and again to three dancers occupying the stage as if the pas de trois were their default formation. Their energy levels must the highest in the dance world as this is all demanding stuff, 70 minutes without a break and looking as fresh at the end as when they started. They dance to a complicated montage of sound performed by a trio of musicians including a founder member of Led Zeppelin. Not everyone was captivated though as there were a few walking out throughout the afternoon.

Towards the very end of the work the dancers gather at the front of the stage miming the throwing of invisible dice, perhaps a reference to the random aspects of dancing in this eclectic piece. They then form a final tableau, rather reminiscent of “Dancers at a Gathering” or “Enigma Variations” where they pose for an invisible photographer.

Merce Cunningham is now eighty-six and beginning to look frail, leaning on a cane; he was gently led by one of his dancers to the corner of the stage. As soon as the audience caught sight of him the already heavy applause turned thunderous and all leapt to their feet. Living legends are few, but Cunningham is one who deserves the accolades.


Edited by Staff.

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