March 2024 News

The past couple of weeks have been rich with engagement with Merce Cunningham’s legacy. We had the pleasure of attending Merce | Misha | More, an evening of film presented by Baryshnikov Arts that celebrated Mikhail Baryshnikov's long and deeply respectful connection with Merce.

Among other things, the program featured the premiere of Daniel Madoff (MCDC 2007-11) and Trust Scholar-in-Residence Nancy Dalva’s video of the Merce Cunningham Dance Company’s REDCAT Event (2009), where Baryshnikov was a guest artist performing Merce's own solos. Nancy and Daniel have paired in another performance video that will premiere next month at the Bruno Walter Auditorium of the Performing Arts library: Merce Cunningham: The Events at Dia Beacon. We hope to see you there!

More recently, Charles Atlas shared his history and collaboration with Merce Cunningham at an evening at the Dia Art Foundation as part of their Artists on Artistsseries. It was especially interesting to hear Charlie discuss the process of exploration he and Merce engaged in, jointly and individually, in creating a rich body of dance/video work over several decades. In the near future, you can catch some of Charlie’s films at Anthology Film Archives. He will also have the first retrospective of his work at the Institute of Contemporary Art (ICA) Boston this fall.

Sadly, we again note the passing of an artist who worked with Merce and the Company. This past month, the dance world lost Steve Paxton, who made a huge impact on the field. Dancing with Merce from 1961 to 1964, Paxton is also known as a founder of the Judson Dance Theater and of the Grand Union. Paxton’s loss was consequential and keenly felt. He was internationally recognized, honored and remembered for inventing Contact Improvisation and making the method freely available beginning in 1972. Contact Quarterly defines the method [as an] improvised dance form [that] is based on the communication between two moving bodies that are in physical contact and their combined relationship to the physical laws that govern their motion—gravity, momentum, inertia.

When Merce died in 2009, Paxton wrote an obituary published in Contact Quarterly that included these words:

[Merce’s] teaching is still in my body to muse upon or use 45 years since I practiced with him, and the practice of relying on the unexpected showed me how to focus intently on what is happening within the body as it dances, and how we concoct relevance as we see and do. . .Because he kept creating new work, Cunningham consistently produced a crisis of perception, both for me as a dancer and especially as a spectator. We are not often offered fresh starts, but with Cunningham this was the norm.

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Paxton (on the left) dancing in Aeon (1961). Photo: Robert Rauschenberg.

Warmest regards,
Ken Tabachnick
Executive Director