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 Post subject: Re: Merce Cunningham Dance Company
PostPosted: Thu Sep 12, 2002 1:59 am 
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An article about the 50th Anniversary of the Merce Cunningham Dance Company:

Cunningham celebrates 50 years of dance
By Frederick M. Winship for UPI

NEW YORK, Sept. 10 (UPI) -- Merce Cunningham, the grand old man of American modern dance, is beginning a yearlong celebration of the 50th anniversary of his dance company that will include special performances and major tours in the United States and abroad.

Cunningham, 83, launched the observance in July with a two-day Lincoln Center festival of dances he has choreographed for the Merce Cunningham Dance Company since its founding in 1953 including a new work, "Loose Time." He his preparing his company for a London season later this month. The celebration will end with an engagement at the Brooklyn Academy of Music in October 2003.

The former dancer and still-active choreographer also is making his debut in another field, art. A collection of animal and plant sketches he has made over the years has just been published under the title of "Other Animals."

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 Post subject: Re: Merce Cunningham Dance Company
PostPosted: Thu Sep 12, 2002 2:06 am 
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Location: Guildford, Surrey, UK
Article in The FT.

Quote:
Dance Umbrella and the Barbican's Bite season have pulled off a notable coup: the world premiere of a Merce Cunningham piece. Dance Umbrella has, as all right-minded organisations should, long supported Cunningham, and the Barbican has twice offered its fine and dance-friendly stage to the American master. The reward is a season, and really not to be missed, in which four of Cunningham latest pieces (made during the past two years) and a revival of the winning How to Pass, Kick, Fall and Run of 1965, are on view until the week's end. Thus we celebrate 50 years of Cunningham's troupe, and even more years of work by this ever-fresh, ever-inquiring, ever-challenging and ever-delighting creator, explorer, innovator and guide to dance's possibilities.

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And in The Telegraph.

Quote:
When a creator gets old and famous, there's an irresistible urge to prod his work and ask whether it genuinely shows that the stove is still firing. With Merce Cunningham, now aged 83, the urge is even greater since the last thing most of his audience wants is that the man who made his reputation by baffling us with his modern ideas should become cosy.
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And in the Guardian.

Quote:
The Cunningham company are celebrating their 50th anniversary, and British fans are sharing the celebrations this week by hosting the world premiere of Cunningham's latest work, Fluid Canvas, at the Barbican. The title refers to the shimmering, shifting stage-scape that has been created for the work by digital artists Shelley Eskar, Paul Kaiser and Marc Downie, in which images of Cunningham's hands are morphed into doodles of cosmic landscapes, alien life forms and geometric puzzles. But the name Fluid Canvas could just as easily apply to most of Cunningham's other works, evoking as it does his genius for animating every part of the stage, for making all the spaces between the dancers feel elastic, expectant.
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<small>[ 09-12-2002, 04:24: Message edited by: Joanne ]</small>


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 Post subject: Re: Merce Cunningham Dance Company
PostPosted: Thu Sep 12, 2002 5:38 pm 
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Location: Thorpe Bay, Essex, UK
MERCE CUNNINGHAM DANCE COMPANY
Barbican Theatre Tuesday 10 September 2002

PROGRAMME
FLUID CANVAS (2002) First Performance
Music: John King, longtermparking
Décor Digital Artwork: Marc Downie, Shelley Eshkar and Paul Kaiser, Lifelike
Costumes: James Hall
Lights: James F Ingalls

INTERSCAPE (2000)
Music: John Cage, One8 and/or 108 (1991)
Décor and costumes: Robert Rauschenberg, Interscape Mirage
Lighting: Aaron Copp
Cellist: Audrey Riley

Some dance performances leave shimmering images in the memory that transcend the ephemeral nature of the art form. It was not the frail figure of Merce Cunningham, standing onstage with his dancers as the final curtain fell, which left an indelible impression on the first night of the company’s season at the Barbican Theatre. Rather it was the breadth and depth of his artistic vision, the strength of which seems unaffected by the passage of time.

'Fluid Canvas', receiving its world premiere, commences with an almost statuesque poise, as the dancers form geometrical patterns against a backdrop of swirling points of light. The movement is grounded, flowing like a current across the space, broken by a single moment of turbulence, one dancer leaping into the air, before the calmness returns. Here the colours of James Hall's costumes under James Ingalls' lighting give them a fluidity of their own, changing from deep blues to shades of sea green. When a single dancer appears in mauve the contrast is jarring at first, but progressively resolves into a celestial harmony as more appear and blend into the ceaseless orbit. In contrast John King's soundscape jumps between intense dissonances and mesmerising simplicity.

The dancers move in independent patterns, allowing the observer's focus to shift, flitting between one spatial design and another. Yet rather than a sense of discord there is an underlying harmony that encompasses the whole image on stage. Once this harmony is broken the jagged edges of limbs and bodies, broken into patterns that shift through sharper more fractured dynamics, reveal a new tension within the choreography. Then there are the moments of simplicity and stillness, the most evocative and breathtaking feature of Cunningham's choreography. When nothing more is needed to convey the vision of the choreographer nothing more is used.

'Interscape' begins with the rich textures of a collage, formed out of intricately interlaced sequences of movements repeated along swift and slow pathways. A sense of joy radiates from the choreography and through the dancers, revealing touching images of humanity in the exuberance of the central male solo and the sensuality of the extended duet section. At this point the focus changes to synchronized groupings and duets that briefly shape the space before the shifting pattern moves on. The choreography exhibits a strong rhythmic counterpoint to John Cage's minimalist score, exquisitely realised by Audrey Riley, which under lays the visual complexity with dynamic contrast. Sudden eye contact between dancers at the start of individual sequences seems to set a shared metronomic pulse that helps them achieve the seemingly impossible, to maintain a sense of unison even when out of sight line. This is a great company, rich in ability and finely attuned both to the choreography and one another.

It was a shame that Tuesday night’s audience was not a younger one, one more likely to be intimately involved in the future of dance, because here was dance in its purist artistic manifestation, portraying intellect and imagination, rising above the mere constructs of movement into something all the more beguiling. By so doing it reaches out to a new generation who need and deserve to understand the power of the medium they are taking as their own and to give them the courage and inspiration to find within it their own means of expression.


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 Post subject: Re: Merce Cunningham Dance Company
PostPosted: Thu Sep 12, 2002 9:50 pm 
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Location: SF Bay Area
Merce is such an inspiration. I remember a few years ago during US National Dance Week when he was honored with a lifetime achievement award at the end of a performance by MCDC at Cal Performances' Zellerbach Hall in Berkeley. Mark Morris took the time out to present the award himself. It was quite an experience seeing a talented choreographer like Mr Morris being in such awe of Merce.

And as usual, the Company wowed the audiences with its atheleticism and pinpoint accuracy and Merce's use of technology.


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 Post subject: Re: Merce Cunningham Dance Company
PostPosted: Thu Sep 12, 2002 9:55 pm 
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As far as the use of technology goes, you might find this interesting:

Quote:
As for "BIPED," I saw its premiere in Berkeley, CA (As an aside, I also saw Mark Morris give Cunningham a lifetime achievement award from the Bay Area dance community). The work, co-commissioned by the Berkeley-based Cal Performances, featured some very interesting animation on a silkscreen. At times, it appeared as if the animated characters were on the stage dancing with the live performers. Quite mesmerizing.
More in our <a href=http://forum.criticaldance.com/ubb/Forum5/HTML/000127.html target=_blank>Merce Cunningham's Summerspace, Interscape & BIPED and Video Technology</a> thread.


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 Post subject: Re: Merce Cunningham Dance Company
PostPosted: Fri Sep 13, 2002 3:29 am 
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Like Tuk, I loved this, particularly Interspace. Last night's audience (Thursday) unlike Tuesday's was very young. At least, it was mostly under 40. Maybe first nights are different.

<small>[ 09-13-2002, 05:30: Message edited by: laurey ]</small>


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 Post subject: Re: Merce Cunningham Dance Company
PostPosted: Sat Sep 14, 2002 5:31 am 
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Saw Merce programme 2 last night and it was a real mix. Way Station was alien and very difficult movement, Loose Time was flowing and dancey and How to Pass, Kick, Fall and Run was a hoot. In Pass.., Merce and David Vaughan accompany the dancers reading out short anecdotes. They did take over from the dance, but everyone had a ball.

<small>[ 09-14-2002, 07:32: Message edited by: ballettlover ]</small>


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 Post subject: Re: Merce Cunningham Dance Company
PostPosted: Sat Sep 14, 2002 4:33 pm 
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Hello, laurey and ballettlover. Welcome and thank you for your impressions! Did you say that Merce and David Vaughan actually performed on stage? Can I also ask how the audience reaction was for this last show?


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 Post subject: Re: Merce Cunningham Dance Company
PostPosted: Sun Sep 15, 2002 1:03 pm 
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Location: London, England; Tallinn, Estonia
Standards are slipping
In The Sunday Times David Dougill's enthusiasm for Merce Cunningham was further dampened by Fluid Canvas.


Aged 83 and smitten with arthritis, Merce Cunningham no longer dances — with his legs, that is. But his hands keep on dancing. We remember those special cameo solo spots he used to perform in later years: only the upper torso mobile, with flurries of flickering gestures. Last week, by motion-capture techniques and computer transformation, it was his hands that provided the digital design material for his latest work, Fluid Canvas, co-commissioned by the Barbican, where the Merce Cunningham Dance Company, in its 50th-anniversary year, gave its world premiere for the Dance Umbrella and BITE:02 seasons.

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**************************************************

In the realm of the sensors
Merce Cunningham Dance Company at The Barbican and Loops at the ICA
By Jann Parry for The Observer

Interscape is a joyous ritual, a mating game whose rules are recognisable. It is played against a bright Robert Rauschenberg collage, which features the Parthenon and a medieval charger, who might just be a carousel horse. The backdrop suggests an old order reconfigured, as does the dance.

There are hints of classical ballet in its flying leaps and spins, its balances on three-quarter point. Couples acknowledge each other in courtly fashion, linking arms, even if they do end up dancing back to back.

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 Post subject: Re: Merce Cunningham Dance Company
PostPosted: Sun Sep 15, 2002 1:57 pm 
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Hi Azlan! Yes, Merce and David Vaughan were at a table at the side of the stage and enjoyed themselves immensely. When I went on the Tuesday opening night there was a standing ovation from virtually the whole hall. Friday was enthusiastic for "Loose Time" and particularly for "How to pass etc.", but no standing ovation. They are rare in the UK.

The critical response has been very positive, but perhaps slightly less so for "Fluid Canvas". Some strictly ballet fans have been unimpressed, but that's par for the course.

<small>[ 09-15-2002, 15:58: Message edited by: Stuart Sweeney ]</small>


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 Post subject: Re: Merce Cunningham Dance Company
PostPosted: Mon Sep 16, 2002 5:05 am 
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Review in The Guardian.

Quote:
Merce Cunningham's desire to have dance, music and design co-exist as separate partners in his work means that it is not unusual for one element to elbow out the others during performance. The dancers in Friday night's revival of How to Pass, Kick, Fall and Run (1965) thus seemed unfazed by the degree to which the audience were focused on the work's accompanying "score" - a string of stories written by John Cage - rather than their own energetic performances.
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 Post subject: Re: Merce Cunningham Dance Company
PostPosted: Mon Sep 16, 2002 10:33 am 
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Merce Cunningham’s programme II at the Barbican was made up of two very recent works dating from 2001 and 2002 respectively and a real “golden oldie” from the 60’s.

In the first work of the evening, Way Station, the dancers shared the stage with a group of multi coloured tripods looking like the exotic flora of another planet. The entire company danced around, between and under them occasionally seeming to regard them as giant umbrellas and sheltering beneath. The second and most recent work, Loose Time, struck me as an archetypal Cunningham piece of ensembles, duets and solos danced in front of a backdrop of a huge net. The highlight for me was a wonderful solo danced by Holley Farmer and I’m grateful to Stuart for helping me identify her.

How to Pass, Kick, Fall and Run was first created in 1965. The “music” credited to John Cage, consists of a series of amusing anecdotes related both singly and simultaneously at varying speeds by both Merce Cunningham himself and David Vaughan, while the dancers respond to the varying speech patterns. My problem with this wonderful work was that I was completely mesmerized by Cunningham himself and spent too much time watching him recite and too little time watching the dancers. I respond in the same way to Ashton’s Wedding Bouquet. It seems that the spoken word always engages my attention first at the expense of the action on stage. And when one of the narrators is a dance world colossus such as Cunningham I become seriously distracted.


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 Post subject: Re: Merce Cunningham Dance Company
PostPosted: Mon Sep 16, 2002 12:42 pm 
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That's the interesting thing about Cunningham work specifically, and post-modern work in general, I find. Since there is a multiplicity of things going on simoultaneously, often not timed together (Cunningham/Cage's theory of "chance" composition, sound and movement occuring simoultaneoulsy, but not coordinated together necessarily), the viewer must "decide" what to watch or notice. Apparently, that's the point, so to speak. In real life, we do the same thing. Amongst a variety of stimuli, in our environment, we decide which ones to ignore, and which to pay attention to. This is the basis for most of the Cunningham style, a blend of visual and aural happenings, with the audience choosing to take in whatever they happen to notice at any given moment.

<small>[ 09-16-2002, 14:43: Message edited by: trina ]</small>


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 Post subject: Re: Merce Cunningham Dance Company
PostPosted: Tue Sep 17, 2002 2:33 am 
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Review in The Telegraph.

Quote:
One is always made to think by Merce Cunningham's pieces because of their cerebral abstractness. But the paradox is that the very best of his work has a licence to thrill that makes thinking redundant. It is awesome what this extraordinary old man is achieving in choreography. On his two Barbican programmes, four of the five dances were made since 2000. One was a world premiere, the wary, spiky Fluid Canvas, shown on the first bill.

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And in The Times.

Quote:
YOU might think that 83 is a good age to sit back and rest on your laurels. But that’s not how Merce Cunningham does things. His creative energy is focused on what might be just around the corner, and trying to convince him that the past is worth revisiting isn’t easy. So we have to thank the 50th anniversary of the Merce Cunningham Dance Company for the revival of one of his greatest works, How to Pass, Kick, Fall and Run (1965), which closed his company’s Barbican season on Saturday.
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And in The Evening Standard.

Quote:
Cunningham's second programme is even more assured than his first. Way Station, the first piece, is the weakest, but in Cunningham-country, that is still very interesting. The set, created by Charles Long, is a collection of enormous anthropomorphic shapes in glowing colours - jelly-baby dinosaurs.

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<small>[ 09-17-2002, 04:41: Message edited by: Joanne ]</small>


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 Post subject: Re: Merce Cunningham Dance Company
PostPosted: Wed Sep 18, 2002 12:39 am 
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A quote about Merce and others by Siobhan Davies in The Daily Telegraph:

Quote:
This moment of ease, the perfect, fearless fusion of skill and vision, is Davies's constant quest. Earlier this week she was watching her old guru, Merce Cunningham, at the Barbican.

"Why I go to see him and Trisha Brown and Robert Wilson regularly is that they have a very particular take on what they want to achieve, and by hell or high water they are going to go towards it. Sometimes they fail, but that's irrelevant. It's the fact that they've thrown the ball over there and said, 'I'm going for it.' That gives so much pleasure, and that's what I'm trying for."
Here is a link to the full interview that is mainly Davies' own work.


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