Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Farewell, Merce

It's hard to believe that another dance icon has passed from our world. Well, that is to say that on the heels of the death of Pina Bausch, Merce Cunningham has left his flesh body. But his amazing life and career will long impact the world beyond dance, beyond life as we know it.
Not much can be said about Merce that he hasn't already told us. From my own outside perspective, I had one long-lasting impression of being in the same room as Merce. In the mid 1990's, he brought his company to perform in Madison, Wisconsin. Highlighting the concert was his exquisite Beach Birds at the end of which came the company bow. Merce entered the stage slowly and steadily emitting a presence that was unmatched by anyone in the room. Knowledge, confidence, clarity and calm radiated from his thin arthritic body. This was not an impostor or an understudy, this was Merce Cunningham.
One of the few artists to fearlessly embrace the present and allow his work to evolve, Merce threw himself into the world of experiment, and later the world of technology. He remains one of dances all-time greatest innovators. As a composer friend of mine commented yesterday on hearing the news, perhaps John Cage has a piano prepared for him in heaven.
Thank you, and farewell, Mr. Cunningham.

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