Cunningham Dance Company
2 Reviews of
the Event at Tate Modern
Review by Katherine Phillips
November 4, 2003 -- Tate Modern, London
Descending the ramp in to the vast concrete Turbine hall, it takes a
little while to register that Olafur Eliasson’s gigantic sun is not a
full circle, but rather a semi- circle reflected in a mirrored ceiling.
In this reflection we see ourselves, the audience, milling around the
space amidst smoke machines and soft, greyish lighting. The music begins;
scraping, growling strings unnerve the audience before the dancers appear
and march to one of three square dance floors, positioned below the gallery
upon which the musicians sit, and over which, Eliasson’s sun beams artificially
The installation art work is an ideal setting for this all encompassing
dance piece, where the surroundings, the audience and the dancers all
become equal components of the performance environment. The audience shifts
from floor section to floor section, as do the dancers as they arc, jump
and lunge in sequence, flitting between the spaces.
The spectators become as much a part of the performance as the dancers
– they are the pattern border on the ceiling mirror canvas. As the music
becomes more tense and discordant, the audience seems to move more quickly
between the performance areas, slowing again when the music calms. There
is a sense of everyone moving to their own timing – the dancers and the
musicians certainly, and the audience influenced by both.
Each angle from this promenade performance provides a new perspective
and it is especially thrilling to have a birds eye view in the ceiling
– something usually only made available through the use of film. Choreographic
elements such as isolation and grouping of the dancers are made more prominent
by the parallels or juxtaposition of the audience - endless possibilities,
parallels and view points are created by the encapsulating nature of the
Review by Lyndsey Winship
November 2003, Tate Modern, London
This was definitely 'an event'.
I loved the scale of the whole thing, the vast space, the echoing soundscape.
In fact when the dancers first came on I felt like they were a bit too
small and human. You could see them wobbling in their balances, make out
the zips and seams in their (horrible) catsuits. But as the piece progressed
you settled into the rhythm of it -- became a part of it really.
I also liked how casual it was – people sitting with their coats on, standing,
wandering around. You could choose what you wanted to watch. It was a
bit like being in a supermarket, they lay out the goods and you take your
And it made you watch in a totally different way to being at a theatre,
you could take in the bigger picture or zoom in to a single limb. But
I think the movement itself was best appreciated on a small scale. Near
the end I stopped flitting between stages and became entranced by a duet
between two women touching elbows. Suddenly I wasn't really aware of the
surroundings, just two dancers.
But at one point I also became quite engrossed in the offstage dance of
an usher who repeatedly had to move spectators away from the cordoned-off
area. This wasn't what I was supposed to be looking at but I think Merce
'Chance' Cunningham might have appreciated it – the unexpected result
of arbitrary parameters and all that.
I thought the whole experience was very much about the choice you have
as an audience. You get out what you put in. And you couldn't deny it
was a great celebration for the company's 50th anniversary.
Edited by Jeff.
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