Merce Cunningham: Poetry & Atmosphere

Merce Cunningham made beginning-middle-end narratives walk the plank. He talked about “eliminating structure points,” and his partner and collaborator John Cage has bolstered such thoughts by explaining that he wanted dance to have the fluidity of the weather. Re-routing the way storytelling worked, the iconic choreographer’s art overwhelmed with both poetics and what he deemed “atmosphere.” Exactly what that atmosphere evoked was up to each viewer in the audience.

On the occasion of his passing, the New Yorker has dug out a Calvin Trillin piece from 1968, written four years after the clip from “Septet” (above) was made. Here’s a snippet:

“The ambiguity in Cunningham’s work has led some reviewers to call his dances “abstract.” This term is somewhat misleading, for – unlike Alwin Nikoliai‘s dancers, who wear elaborate and enveloping costumes – Cunningham’s dancers are never really symbolic or decorative. “My feeling is very strongly that we are humans engaged in certain situations,” Cunningham has said. These situations may not be familiar, or even recognizable, but the dancers, whose simple costumes never conceal the body and whose movements are all based on the body’s natural expressivity, are never more or less than human. ”

A clip of “Beach Birds” and a chat with Cage and MC after the jump.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s