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Merce Cunningham has Died
July 27, 2009 9:49 AM   Subscribe

Merce Cunningham died yesterday at 90.

"Dancing just seemed a part of what I did." Cunningham was a pioneer of modern and postmodern dance. He often worked with John Cage and other famous interdisciplinary artists. He founded and performed with the Merce Cunningham Dance Company until 1989, continuing to choreograph pieces well after that.

Beach Birds.
Roamin' 1.
Changing Steps.
The Coast Zone.

You can even learn how with Mondays with Merce.
posted by stresstwig (36 comments total) 4 users marked this as a favorite

 
Terribly sad news. And on the last day of ADF to boot.
posted by 3.2.3 at 10:00 AM on July 27, 2009


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One of the great artists of the century. His works with Cage are among my favorite art pieces...ever.
posted by Lutoslawski at 10:04 AM on July 27, 2009


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posted by zarq at 10:05 AM on July 27, 2009


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posted by gingerbeer at 10:10 AM on July 27, 2009


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posted by scrutiny at 10:10 AM on July 27, 2009


Daaaamn. I got to work with him when the ensemble was on tour for Split Sides. He and Doug Varone are the two choreographers that really cemented the beauty of modern dance in my mind. He was simply a genius.
posted by god hates math at 10:17 AM on July 27, 2009


Dance of this kind is something I've always wanted to appreciate, but have never really understood. Watching each of the pieces above, I find that, for me anyway, the movements don't cohere, don't create a whole that I can consider. Perhaps it's too ingrained for me to look for narrative, but to me, each movement seems separate, each dancer self-contained, even as they interact with one another. Because I can't come up with a narrative, or even just a purpose, for each dancer, I find that it doesn't hold my attention.

I don't doubt Mr. Cunningham's status as a giant in the field. I just wish I had the capacity to appreciate what he's done.
posted by ocherdraco at 10:19 AM on July 27, 2009


A friend sent me this quote from a recent New York Magazine article on Cunningham's 90th birthday:
A story goes that in his early days with Martha Graham’s company, one of her assistants pointed to Cunningham and complained, “Martha, he’s doing it all wrong!” To which Graham replied, “Leave him alone. He’s beautiful.”
Merce made it easy to see what Martha meant.
posted by Hadroed at 10:34 AM on July 27, 2009


From the post I was wondering why his last name had the color of a link I'd already clicked. Then I realized; he was born in the town I live in.
posted by ZaneJ. at 10:37 AM on July 27, 2009


He was the first person to make me understand why dance is so beautiful. This opened up an entirely new world of art for me.

I'm not often moved to post in an obit thread, but this man really changed my life in an exceptionally good way, and I will do my best to pass that on to others.
posted by nosila at 10:48 AM on July 27, 2009 [1 favorite]


He was the first person to make me understand why dance is so beautiful.

Here here.
posted by sundri at 10:52 AM on July 27, 2009


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posted by From Bklyn at 10:59 AM on July 27, 2009


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posted by lapolla at 11:02 AM on July 27, 2009


4'33"

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posted by jonp72 at 11:03 AM on July 27, 2009


His partnership with John Cage was always such an inspiration to me. It seemed to embody everything love could be: two visionary artists creating something totally new together.

I saw his company perform last spring at Dia Beacon. Merce was wheelchair-bound, and while he was still there, right in the thick of it, directing a new piece, it was just after Robert Rauschenberg's death, and I couldn't help but feel an acute sense of loss, both immediate and imminent.
posted by foxy_hedgehog at 11:15 AM on July 27, 2009 [1 favorite]


3rding Nosalia.

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posted by Alterscape at 11:16 AM on July 27, 2009


each movement seems separate, each dancer self-contained, even as they interact with one another

Ocherdraco, this is one of the things I found so great about Merce's choreography -- there's no opposition between individuality and collectivity, they sort of freely flow into one another. To me it suggests countless narratives while imposing none. Anyway, I hope you find some way to appreciate it, because I really think it is wonderful.

RIP Merce. This news came to me as I was sending an email to a friend about John Cage, so it's weirdly apropos. Sad news, but I'm sure his legacy will last for a very long time.

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posted by speicus at 11:45 AM on July 27, 2009


There's no thinking involved in my choreography... I don't work through images or ideas. I work through the body... If the dancer dances, which is not the same as having theories about dancing or wishing to dance or trying to dance, everything is there. When I dance, it means: this is what I am doing.

Goodbye, Mr. Cunningham. Thanks for doing what you did.
posted by trip and a half at 11:52 AM on July 27, 2009


Fantastic dancer, artist, human being.

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posted by Mali at 12:11 PM on July 27, 2009


My cousin worked for Merce's company in the late 80s, and introduced me—someone who knows nothing about dance—to Merce Cunningham's work, and I liked it.

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posted by terrapin at 12:15 PM on July 27, 2009


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posted by R. Mutt at 12:26 PM on July 27, 2009


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posted by kuppajava at 12:47 PM on July 27, 2009


A review of his latest work from April: link.

This is a great loss.
posted by converge at 1:06 PM on July 27, 2009


⁄ \ [ ] { } † ‡ … · • ● ⇧ ↩ ¡ ¿ ‽ ⁂ ∴ ∵ ◊ ※ ♥ ♪ ♫ ♯ ♀ ♂ Ø ø

~ ≈ ∞

May his peace rest in movement.
posted by nickyskye at 1:48 PM on July 27, 2009 [2 favorites]


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Well done, nickyskye.
posted by jokeefe at 1:55 PM on July 27, 2009


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posted by Casuistry at 2:13 PM on July 27, 2009


Among all his other work, my favorite, a project he did with Radiohead and Sigur Ros.

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posted by dbiedny at 2:31 PM on July 27, 2009


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So soon after Pina Bausch too... The dance world has lost some leading lights.
posted by Magnakai at 3:27 PM on July 27, 2009


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posted by flapjax at midnite at 5:08 PM on July 27, 2009


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posted by Wolof at 5:13 PM on July 27, 2009


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posted by ob at 7:19 PM on July 27, 2009


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posted by Joseph Gurl at 7:26 PM on July 27, 2009


Changing Steps

Not bad, but John Cleese did it better.
posted by neuron at 10:57 PM on July 27, 2009


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posted by susanbeeswax at 11:12 PM on July 27, 2009


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posted by JustKeepSwimming at 6:03 AM on July 28, 2009


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posted by deeparch at 7:57 AM on July 28, 2009


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