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Merce Cunningham. “ T he only way to do it is to do it” - Merce Cunningham. 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.

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Merce Cunningham

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merce cunningham

Merce Cunningham

“The only way to do it is to do it”

- Merce Cunningham

Ms. Oliver

Dance History Unit

what do you already know about merce cunningham
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
Who is this guy?
  • Dancer
  • Choreographer
  • Contributor to the Avant Garde
  • Considered to be postmodern
where did he come from
Where did he come from?
  • 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
early years
Early Years
  • Met John Cage his musical director
  • Mills College
  • Moved to New York
  • 1939-1945 for Martha Graham’s Company
early work
Early Work
  • 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
Merce Cunningham Dance Company
  • 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
Cunningham Style
  • Dance, music, and art exist independently
  • The use of chance in choreographing phrases
  • Use cards, coins, and dice for choreography
cunningham style cont d
Cunningham Style (cont’d)
  • Influenced by:
    • Albert Einstein
    • Zen
    • Dadaism
  • Abandoned:
      • Conflict & Resolution
      • Cause and Effect
      • Climax and Anti-Climax

Change of direction

Change of facing


Weight Shift




famous cunningham works
Famous Cunningham Works
  • Suite for Five
  • Split Sides
  • Crises
  • Sound Dance
  • Fabrications


companies performing cunningham
Companies Performing Cunningham
  • 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
dance forms
Dance forms
  • No longer can dance
  • Developed “Lifeforms”
  • Still choreographs
  • Now “Danceforms”
interesting facts
Interesting facts
  • Twyla Tharp’s After “Suite”
  • Andy Warhol collaboration
  • 50 years
  • “Dance world’s Einstein”
postmodern dancers like cunningham
Postmodern Dancers Like Cunningham
  • Judson Dance Theater
  • Murray Louis
  • Mark Morris
  • Alwin Nikolais
  • Yvonne Rainer

“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

what have you learned about merce cunningham
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?
  • “Dance Spirit” Vol. 10 No. 10 December 2006
  • “Merce Cunningham: Dancing in Space and Time” edited by Richard Kostelanetz
nc competency goals
NC Competency Goals
  • Technology/Computer Skills:
    • 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:
    • 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.