Choreography / 1970

Second Hand

In 1944, Cunningham choreographed a solo called Idyllic Song to the first movement of Erik Satie’s Socrate. Twenty-five years later, in 1969, he choreographed the other two movements, adding a duet to the second movement and a group dance to the third. Satie’s publisher refused permission for his two-piano arrangement, but John Cage composed a new piece for one piano, using the structure and phraseology of Satie’s music, and chance operation to change the continuity. His version was titled Cheap Imitation, inspiring Cunningham to name his ballet Second Hand. Second Hand had no décor, and Jasper Johns designed the costumes, each of a single color except for the edge of the arm or leg on one side where another color enters. The second color in each costume was the primary color for another dancer’s costume, and as the dancer’s bowed, they were arranged in order to show the color succession.


Premiere Date

Jan 08, 1970

Premiere Venue

Brooklyn Academy of Music

Premiere Location

Brooklyn, NY


John Cage, Cheap Imitation


Jasper Johns


Richard Nelson


30 minutes

Original Cast

Carolyn Brown

Merce Cunningham

Douglas Dunn

Meg Harper

Susana Hayman-Chaffey

Sandra Neels

Chase Robinson

Valda Setterfield

Jeff Slayton

Mel Wong

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