Monday, January 12, 2009

Mondays with Merce

Mondays with Merce is a new series of webcasts from the Merce Cunningham studio. The first episode, with Cunningham speaking about technique and footage of the company class and an Event performance at Dia Beacon, is up now here. I don't know as much about dance technique (nor should I, being both clumsy and very much under the sway of gravity), and music-be-music-but-dance-be-dance but nevertheless this is VERY useful stuff for composers. I believe that it's safe to say that Cunningham technique, alongside Balanchine's, is a body of discipline from the 20th century which is going to keep us, well into the 21st, on our toes, if only vicariously.

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NB: the footage of the 89-year old Cunningham leading the company class while it warms up to Keep You Sunny Side Up is a gentle reminder that even after more than half a century of allowing music and dance to go their own ways on stage, there is still plenty of opportunity for old fashioned piano accompaniments, while Cunningham's clear and precise setting of metre and tempo (and-a-one, two, three...) places him well within the universal tradition of the dance master, controlling motion in space by defining the rhythm. (I was reminded of a visit in Surakarta a decade ago to the home of the great Javanese dance master, Pak Ngaliman. He had suffered a terrible stroke which left him confined to a chair and only able to speak with great difficulty. Nevertheless, he continued to teach and choreograph, using the sharp drumming of a few fingers in one hand. It was enough.)

1 comment:

Nancy Dalva said...

Thank you for your wonderful post about Mondays with Merce! You wrote so insightfully and clearly about us--it's an honor to be on your blog.
With best wishes,
Nancy Dalva
producer/writer
Mondays with Merce