Cunningham Dance Company
10 September 2002
-- Barbican Theatre, London.
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
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
"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.
Edited by Jeff.
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