Choreography / 1948

Ruse of Medusa, The

In the summer of 1948, while in residence at Black Mountain College, John Cage organized a series of concerts of the works of Erik Satie. The series culminated in a production of “The Ruse of Medusa,” Satie’s comic play “Le Piège de Méduse,” translated from the French by M.C. Richards. The play was directed by Helen Livingston and Arthur Penn. Cage played the piano. Various members of the Black Mountain community participated as designers and cast members, including Buckminster Fuller in the role of Baron Medusa, and Cunningham as Jonas, “a costly mechanical monkey.” Cunningham choreographed a series of short intermittent dances for his role, which he later performed as a solo work under the title “Monkey Dances.”


Premiere Date

Aug 14, 1948

Premiere Venue

Black Mountain College

Premiere Location

Black Mountain, NC


Erik Satie, Le Piège de Méduse


Willem and Elaine de Kooning


Mary Outten

Albert Lanier

Bruce Johns

Buckminster Fuller

Ray Johnson

Forrest Wright

Ruth Asawa

Raymond Spillenger


Length unknown

Original Cast

Alvin Charles Few

Merce Cunningham

Elaine De Kooning

Buckminster Fuller

Isaac Rosenfeld

Wiliam Shrauger

Other Choreography

Spontaneous Earth
Duration: 3 minutes (est.)
Year: 1944
Collab.: Cage
Unavailable Memory Of, The
Duration: 2-4 minutes (est.)
Year: 1944
Collab.: Cage
Tossed As It Is Untroubled
Duration: 3 minutes (est.)
Year: 1944
Collab.: Cage
Root of an Unfocus
Duration: 5 minues (est.)
Year: 1944
Collab.: Cage
Duration: Length unknown
Year: 1944
Collab.: Cage
Four Walls
Duration: 60 minutes
Year: 1944
Collab.: Cage, Lauterer
Idyllic Song
Duration: 6 minutes
Year: 1944
Collab.: Satie
Duration: Length unknown
Year: 1945
Collab.: Gearhart, Cage