Choreography / 1983


"Roaratorio" was choreographed to a large-scale musical score composed by John Cage in 1979 titled "Roaratorio, an Irish Circus on Finnegans Wake". The score consists of three simultaneous elements and is a work of staggering complexity. Cage travelled through Ireland recording sounds in places mentioned in Joyce’s novel, which were later assembled on tapes to form an hour-long piece. Using lines from Joyce’s book, he then wrote mesostics (a poem constructed so that a vertical phrase intersects lines of horizontal text) on “JAMESJOYCE,” which are read aloud during the performance, and scored parts based on Irish traditional music – jugs, reels, airs, and songs – that are played at various times at various intensities throughout the work. Cunningham, who identified with the “feeling of dance” he found in Joyce’s book, created choreography with motifs on jigs and reels, a “hopping” dance, promenades and strolls, and folk dances that suddenly expand into huge communal circles.


Premiere Date

Oct 26, 1983

Premiere Venue

Le Colisée (Festival de Lille)

Premiere Location

Roubaix, France


John Cage, Roaratorio, an Irish Circus on Finnegans Wake


Mark Lancaster


Mark Lancaster


60 minutes

Original Cast

Helen Barrow

Louise Burns

Merce Cunningham

Susan Emery

Lise Friedman

Alan Good

Neil Greenberg

Catherine Kerr

Chris Komar

Judy Lazaroff

Joseph Lennon

Susan Quinn

Karen Radford

Rob Remley

Robert Swinston

Megan Walker

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