“Pioneers in Dance: Merce Cunningham”, a Free Learning Program

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October 1, 2014 by Nicole

The Center for Contemporary Dance will host “Pioneers in Dance: Merce Cunningham,” a free learning program designed to celebrate one of the foremost pioneers of modern and contemporary dance.

Photo provided by Dance Consortium.

The program includes a lecture and dialogue about Cunningham’s legacy, led by dance educator Christopher Gonzalez La Corte, who is the Artistic Director for explore theatre & dance co., one of several dance companies in residency at CCD. The program also includes a presentation of Cunningham’s filmed works and an all-level movement component wherein participants will learn basic, Cunningham-inspired choreography. Comfortable attire is recommended. Again, tickets are free but space is limited. Reserve your spot by calling (407) 695-8366 or clicking here.

This program is part of an ongoing series of community dance education programs hosted by CCD. “As an education and incubation center for evolving perspectives in dance,” explains Executive Director Craig W. Johnson, “it’s important to us to introduce the community to the history and pioneers behind dance as we know it today. Learning programs give us an opportunity to educate and inspire our community through dance. There are legacies that live behind the work we do, and it’s important to share the history that led us to where we are today.”

Future learning programs will feature other dance legends such as Lester Horton, Martha Graham, Katherine Dunham, Alvin Ailey, Ruth St. Denis and more.

About Merce Cunningham
Born on April 16, 1919, in Centralia, Washington, Mercier Philip Cunningham became one of the most innovative and influential choreographers of the 20th century. A gifted dancer known for his powerful leaps, Cunningham was invited to join the Martha Graham Dance Company in 1939. Over the years, Cunningham developed his own unique choreography process and, in 1953, he established the Merce Cunningham Dance Company.

Movement itself was the principal subject matter of his avant-garde dances; neither narrative nor musical form determined their structure. His collaboration and lifelong relationship with composer John Cage began with Cunningham’s first independent choreography in 1942, and lasted until Cage’s death 50 years later. In the course of their work together, they implemented a number of radical innovations. The most widely-known and controversial of these concerned the complete separation of choreography and music during the creative process. Famously, the dancers in Cunningham’s company learned and rehearsed a work in silence and often did not hear the music until the first performance, or at the dress rehearsal.

The other principle that Cunningham and Cage shared was the use of chance procedures in the composition of their works. Cage was a proponent of improvising musical compositions during a performance, while Cunningham preferred to use chance not in the performance of his choreography, but in its structure and arrangement. Cunningham’s choreography was definitively set and chance methods, like the rolling of dice and flipping of coins, were used to determine the sequence of established movements–where in the space they will be performed, and by how many dancers. Cunningham’s dancers were not lacking in structure, but the structure was not preconceived.

Cunningham died of natural causes at age 90 on July 26, 2009 at his home in New York. His namesake dance company went on a two-year tour after his death as a tribute to the great choreographer. Following the tour, the Company closed its doors. The Merce Cunningham Trust was established to preserve his works, including more than 150 dances, and his legacy.

Sunday, October 26, 2014
1:00 – 2:30 p.m.
The Center for Contemporary Dance
3580 Aloma Avenue #7
Winter Park, FL 32792
Free and open to the public; reservations required.
Call (407) 695-8366 or reserve free tickets online.


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