Choreography / 1953

Suite by Chance

“Suite by Chance,” a dance in four movements, was first performed at the Festival of Contemporary Arts in Urbana, Illinois. The dancers, most of whom were students from Cunningham’s technique classes, were billed as “Merce Cunningham and Company,” although the performance predated the establishment of his first company by several months. According to Cunningham, “Suite by Chance is exactly what the title says.” He used detailed charts, which reportedly took months to complete, to organize all aspects of the dance: gamut of movement, durations, and directions in space. The sequence for each dancer was determined by chance, using the possibilities recorded in the charts. Chance also determined the number of dancers on stage, exits and entrances, and other aspects of the continuity. Reflecting on the reception the dance received, Cunningham wrote “It was almost impossible to see a movement in the modern dance during that period not stiffened by literary or personal connection, and the simple, direct and unconnected look of this dance (which some thought abstract and dehumanized) disturbed. My own experience while working with the dancers was how strongly it let the individual quality of each of them appear, naked, powerful and unashamed.”


Premiere Date

Mar 24, 1953

Premiere Venue

University of Illinois

Premiere Location

Urbana, Illinois


Christian Wolff, For Magnetic Tape


Remy Charlip


22 - 24 minutes (est.)

Original Cast

Carolyn Brown

Merce Cunningham

Jo Anne Melsher

Natanya Neumann

Marianne Preger-Simon

Joan Skinner

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