At BAM last Thursday night, 12/8/2011, I saw the Merce Cunningham Dance Company perform Biped (1999) and Second Hand (1970). For me it was an unprecedented experience and beforehand I had only a glimmer that it might be. I am so grateful that I was not alone.
The dancing was transcendent. It always is. But for me never before like this. And the dancers sustained this level all night long. Not one broke. Through Robert Swinston in Second Hand I kept seeing Merce.
Merce as choreographer is always generous.
The pieces always over flow, challenging dancers and audiences alike. Thursday though, the dancers matched the choreography. Not to coin a phrase !! they were the choreography.
Until the repertory was complete, this on the part of the dancers was not possible. That is, it was not possible to dance each piece within the context of the whole of the repertory. But once this was possible, it was up to each dancer each night to choose to go all the way. In the Merce tradition they each did. On Thursday night no one broke. So, neither did I. Neither did my close friend sitting beside me. I felt her watching intently the whole time. I felt other watchers too. No one broke. The unique knowledge and unflagging commitment of the dancers drew out the same from each viewer. The more deeply involved I became the more I fit into the audience. We became one, one audience. This unity of focal point seemed to me to tighten the on stage ensemble. They did not push out individually. They danced together.
So I saw it all. I saw Biped newly and Second Hand for the very first time. I think that I needed my friend there to see so fully. I needed everyone else too.
Merce always reached his audience by means of his dancers, and his dancers primarily by means of his choreography. Not by means of personal relationships. He challenged the appetite and ability and heart of each one of his very few very unique dancers. His being there physically was never necessary to his communicating with his dancers. His choreography was. And dancers’ commitment to the choreography was always their primary way of communicating with him. Thursday this dancer and choreographer connection was made palpable. It lived at once as it always has, in the only way it ever can, in the moment of performance; and it lived as never before because of the dancing. It seemed to me that the space shimmered.
Merce was there.
For me he was there precisely in that intimate way he always had been, but also he was there in a way that he never before had been, essentially. He was there essentially. That was the gift. It is mine and I cannot share it. The relationship I had I have, except more so. Purified. Truer. More sure. An unexpected surprise. I have lost nothing. I have more of what I wanted most.
I just wish Merce could have seen for himself what I know he could not have imagined. At the same time I suspect he might have preferred what he had seen, and had seen repeatedly, watching a cast struggle to encompass the challenges of a new work. That element of course was missing Thursday night.
Now I am thinking about the Armory. Just once Merce wanted to make it easy for any one who cared to see his work. Well that is a gift meant precisely for people like me and I should not turn it down. So if a ticket is still available I will get one.
I changed my mind.
to me anyway. This is Patrick Corbin’s ballet class, Gibney Dance Center, 890 Broadway, sometime last summer. It was hot!! Especially when I am developing movement I take class daily. My studio work changes how I approach class and taking class deepens my relationship to the movement I am developing.
“The two factors that make “Nearly Ninety” exceptional, though, remain the choreography and the performances. Mr. Cunningham’s dance imagination actually appears more fertile than ever before. Onward!”
By dance critic Alastair Macaulay.
Nearly Ninety (minutes long) seemed that way to me too. I saw the final Sunday afternoon performance. The set lacked only sequins. “Pour” is exactly the right word here.
This is two pages long.
By dance critic Alastair Macaulay
This is very informative and very well written. It is 4 pages long.
Look at Pond Way. It was choreographed in 1988 and is 22.35 minutes long. This is not a clip.
“Pond Way can be described as one of Cunningham’s ‘nature studies’ where the movement evokes birds, animals or landscapes. It is a lyrical, contemplative and sensuous piece, with the movement, according to Cunningham, being reminiscent of the game of skimming stones over a pond, which he loved to play as a child. The production is further enriched with a backcloth from the visual artist Roy Lichtenstein and a soundscape by Brian Eno.” ……NPR
Margaret Gosden has posted photos from the Concert on her blog,