Mercier Philip "Merce" Cunningham (April 16, 1919 – July 26, 2009) was an American dancer and choreographer who was at the forefront of the American modern dance. He is also notable for his frequent collaborations with artists of other disciplines, including musicians John Cage and David Tudor, artists Robert Rauschenberg, Jasper Johns and Bruce Nauman.
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- If a dancer dances - which is not the same as having theories about dancing or wishing to dance or trying to dance or remembering in his body someone else's dance - but if the dancer dances, everything is there.. ..our ecstasy in dance comes from the possible gift of freedom, the exhilarating moment that this exposing of the bare energy can give us. What is meant is not license, but freedom...(1952)
- from the front-page of the website of the Merce Cunningham Trust
Merce Cunningham, A Lifetime of Dance, 2000
(taken from the Wikipedia page on Cunnmingham)
- John Cage and I became interested in the use of chance in the 50's. I think one of the very primary things that happened then was the publication of the "I Ching," the Chinese book of changes, from which you can cast your fortune: the hexagrams.
- Cage took it to work in his way of making compositions then; and he used the idea of 64—the number of the hexagrams —to say that you had 64, for example, sounds; then you could cast, by chance, to find which sound first appeared, cast again, to say which sound came second, cast again, so that it's done by, in that sense, chance operations. Instead of finding out what you think should follow—say a particular sound—what did the I Ching suggest? Well, I took this also for dance.
- I was working on a title called, “Untitled Solo,” and I had made—using the chance operations—a series of movements written on scraps of paper for the legs and the arms, the head, all different. And it was done not to the music but with the music of Christian Wolff.
Quotes about Merce Cunningham
- Merce [Cunningham] is my favorit artist in any field. Sometimes I’m pleased by the complexity of a work I paint. By the fourth day I realize it’s simple. Nothing Merce does [choreography for dance] is simple. Everything has a fascinating richness and multiplicity of direction. [Jasper Johns did a lot of décors for Merce Cunningham, as Robert Rauschenberg did and Frank Stella...
- Jasper Johns, in Merce, Hubert Saal, Newsweek 71, no. 22, 27 May 1968, as quoted in Jasper Johns, Writings, sketchbook Notes, Interviews, ed. Kirk Varnedoe, Moma New York, 1996, p. 129
- I met him [Merce Cunningham] around 1953 after a performance I saw. He was teaching and making dances for his company and was already working with John Cage. What interested me initially wasn’t just the movement but also the music he worked with, which was unfamiliar to me.. ..Later [[Robert Rauschenberg|Bob Rauschenberg] had been doing sets and costumes for the Cunningham Company.. .I can’t say exactly how, but for a period of time, Cage, Cunningham, Rauschenberg, and I saw each other frequently and exchanged ideas. John [Cage] was very interested in presenting his ideas to other people, so it was impossible to be around and not to learn..
- Jasper Johns, as quoted in Jasper Johns, by Bryan Robertson and Tim Marlow, Tate, in 'The Art Magazine', London, Winter 1993, pp. 40, 47