Merce Cunningham (1919) American dancer and choreographer

"There's no thinking involved in my choreography...
I don't work through images or ideas.
I work through the body...
If the dancer dances -­ which is not the same as having theories about dancing
or wishing to dance or trying to dance
-­ everything is there.
When I dance, it means: this is what I am doing."

Early on, Merce Cunningham was influenced by Martha Graham. He was a soloist in her company from 1939 to 1945. He formed his own modern dance company in New York in 1950 and began to create dances to the music of avant-garde composers like his musical director John Cage. His early, expressive works include The Seasons (1947), Suite by Chance and Symphonie pour un homme seul, the latter two from 1952.

His choreographies are characterized by abrupt changes and suspensions of motion. His company performs what Cunningham calls "events, dances created from other works, in random sequence". His style is definitely not for everyone. Cunningham's productions have no story, theme or subject and are rarely supported by music (or it is referred to in the press as "an absolutely dreadful noise"). Abstraction and experiment play a large part in his choreographies.

Later on Cunningham and his Merce Cunningham Dance Company produced well-known works called Antic Meet (1958), Squaregame (1976), Locale (1980), Duets (1980), and Arcade (1985).

Cunningham is particularly known for his partnerships with contemporary artists such as Andy Warhol, David Behrman, Fast Forward, Robert Rauschenberg and Jasper Johns. His most recent works are Installations (1996), Scenario (1997) and Biped (1999).

Sources:, Wordsworth Encyclopedia,, Culture Kiosque

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