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Monday, July 27, 2009


A Personal Memoriam: Merce Cunningham

Merce Cunningham Dancers L1000169

My heart breaks today...one of the greatest artists of the 20th century, Merce Cunningham, has died at the age of 90. More importantly to me, though, is the loss of one of my personal heroes, perhaps the most significant artistic influence on my life.

Merce was widely considered the greatest living choreographer in the world, but his influence stretched well beyond the world of dance. His theories of movement have affected theater for decades; his collaborations with minimalist composer John Cage transformed modern music; and his pieces made for film expanded the possibilities of cinema. You can find architects, scientists and even video-game creators who have been powerfully influenced by his work. He wasn't just an artist, in my opinion -- Merce Cunningham was a transformative presence in the world of art and culture, and we may never see his like again.

As a young playwright and director 20 years ago, I first experienced "Beach Birds For Camera," Cunningham's seminal video/dance work. I had literally never seen anything like it; everyday movements pushed into the realm of the poetic, animal behavior made awe-inspiring and elegant, and mathematical computation where rhythm once dominated. There's no way for me to adequately describe the earthquake "Beach Birds" set off inside me; it challenged every assumption I had made about art, and forced me to see entirely new avenues of possibility. Along with Sondheim, Parker, Cadmus , Hemphill, and other heroes, Merce Cunningham changed not only the person I was, but the artist I would be.

I've spent a large chunk of my life being inspired by Merce Cunningham; many of my own works for the theatre -- and if you're familiar with them, I'm talking about things like "Stealing Pears," "Pierced," "rite #55/wonderwall elegy" and my current project-in-process, "The Gilgamesh Variations" (coming to a stage near you in 2010!) -- are naked attempts to equal Cunningham's complexity, grandeur and personal style. I will miss him the rest of my life...and I'm certain the world is deprived by his absence.
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Blogger FUNKOLOGY said...

We really gonna miss him...@)---

7/30/09, 6:46 PM  

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