No question about it: Merce Cunningham was the most radically innovative figure in American dance history.
With his long-time partner and musical collaborator John Cage, he proposed the famously controversial idea that music and dance should exist independently—in the same space and time but without being connected in any intentional way. In fact, Cunningham’s dancers often hear the music for the first time during the opening-night performance.
From the 1960s until his death, Cunningham was at the forefront of dance technology, which permeated almost every aspect of his work, from creating dances to final performance. He was on the development team and an active user of the choreography software program, DanceForms (formerly Life Forms); he used virtual décor and dancers in Biped (1999); he distributed iPod Shuffles to audience members for use during eyeSpace (2006); and he released open-source computer code for his choreography of Loops (2008).
Merce Cunningham Dance Company Information
- Venues: Lincoln Center and the Brooklyn Academy of Music, among other NYC venues. The company mostly tours and is regularly hosted by some of the world’s grandest stages and esteemed university campuses, as well as other, less traditional venues
- Public Transportation: Depends on venue. Venues in NYC easily accessible by subway and bus
- Handicapped Accessibility: Depends on venue
- Performances/Programs: The Merce Cunningham Dance Company currently maintains a repertory of a dozen or so dance pieces, spanning over six decades of Merce Cunningham’s choreographic career. Evening-length concerts generally consist of a selection from the repertory and occasionally include a post-performance discussion. However, due to Cunningham’s death in July 2009, the troupe will be disbanding within the next two years
- Ticket Prices: Ticket prices generally fall between $50 and $70. See individual venues for information on same-day discounts and student Rush policies
- Programs for Young People: In 1964 when Jasper Johns created the painting Numbers, 1964 for the New York State Theater lobby, he asked his friend and collaborator Merce Cunningham to leave a footprint on it, telling him, “I think you should have your foot in the door of the State Theater.” Now, Foot in the Door: Young Friends of Merce Committee, the company’s aptly named membership organization, seeks to build support for the Cunningham Company from diverse groups of people
- Membership: Membership requires a donation at or above $175 and includes such benefits as invitations to showings and receptions, preferred-seating options, open rehearsals, and invitations to special workshops.