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Merce Cunningham
“The only way to do it is to do it”
- Merce Cunningham
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Ms. Oliver
Dance History Unit
What do you already know
about Merce Cunningham?
• Write down on your worksheet anything
that you know about:
• Merce Cunningham
• Merce Cunningham Company
• Cunningham Style
Who is this guy?
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Dancer
Choreographer
Contributor to the Avant Garde
Considered to be postmodern
Where did he come from?
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Born April 16, 1919
Centralia, Washington
Tap and Ballroom
“Dance is most deeply concerned with
each single instant as it comes along.”
• Cornish College of the Arts
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Early Years
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Met John Cage his musical director
Mills College
Moved to New York
1939-1945 for Martha Graham’s
Company
Early Work
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• Graham’s Company
• The Wind Remains 1943 for Paul Bowles
• 1st solo concert with John Cage in NY
1944
• “What is dance? Where is it performed?
What is it about?” - Cunningham in 1940’s
Merce Cunningham Dance Company
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Founded in the summer of 1953
Black Mountain College, NC
Still active with 14 dancers
Works with both composers and artists
Choreographed 200 dances for company
Cunningham Style
• Dance, music, and art exist
independently
• The use of chance in choreographing
phrases
• Use cards, coins, and dice for
choreography
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Cunningham Style (cont’d)
• Influenced by:
• Albert Einstein
• Zen
• Dadaism
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• Abandoned:
• Conflict & Resolution
• Cause and Effect
• Climax and Anti-Climax
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Vocabulary
Change of direction
Change of facing
Rebound
Weight Shift
Rhythm
Space
Time
Famous Cunningham Works
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Suite for Five
Split Sides
Crises
Sound Dance
Fabrications
CRWDSPCR
Crises
Companies Performing
Cunningham
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New York City Ballet
The Ballet of the Paris Opera
American Ballet Theatre
Boston Ballet
White Oak Dance Project
Pacific Northwest Ballet
Pennsylvania Ballet
Zurich Ballet
Rambert Dance Company
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Dance forms
• No longer can
dance
• Developed
“Lifeforms”
• Still choreographs
• Now “Danceforms”
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Interesting facts
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Twyla Tharp’s After “Suite”
Andy Warhol collaboration
50 years
“Dance world’s Einstein”
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Postmodern Dancers Like
Cunningham
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Judson Dance Theater
Murray Louis
Mark Morris
Alwin Nikolais
Yvonne Rainer
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Closure
“You have to love dancing to stick to it. It gives you
nothing back, no manuscripts to store away, no
paintings to show on walls and maybe hang in
museums, no poems to be printed and sold, nothing
but that fleeting moment when you feel alive. It is not
for unsteady souls.”- Merce Cunningham
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What have you learned about
Merce Cunningham?
• Is your worksheet done?
• Can you answer the questions from the
beginning of the presentation?
• Is there anything you want to know
about Cunningham?
• Who else would you like to know about?
Resources
• http://www.merce.org
• http://www.pbs.org/wnet/americanmasters/database/cunningha
m_m.html
• http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Merce_Cunningham
• http://www.kennedycenter.org/calendar/index.cfm?fuseaction=showIndividual&entit
Y_id=3715&source_type=A
• http://www.abt.org/education/archive/choreographers/cunningha
m_m.html
• “Dance Spirit” Vol. 10 No. 10 December 2006
• “Merce Cunningham: Dancing in Space and Time” edited by
Richard Kostelanetz
NC Competency Goals
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Technology/Computer Skills:
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Goal 2: The learner will demonstrate knowledge and skills in the use of
computer and other technologies.
Goal 3: The learner will use a variety of technologies to access, analyze,
interpret, synthesize, apply, and communicate information.
Dance:
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Goal 3: The learner will understand that dance can create and communicate
meaning.
Goal 4: The learner will apply and demonstrate critical and creative thinking
skills in dance.
Goal 5: The learner will demonstrate and understand dance in various
cultures and historical periods.
Goal 7: The learner will make connections between dance and other
content areas
Goal 8: The learner will understand dance as an art form with a range of
opportunities for involvement.
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