Merce Cunningham’s death on 26 July 2009 in Manhattan brings to a close an astonishing life in dance. Cunningham once said, ‘I didn’t become a dancer, I have always been dancing.’ His remarkable career is a testament to a man who has not only always been dancing, but who has always been pushing the boundaries of dancing, including the boundaries of how it is perceived, fashioned and presented.
In 2007 I was in the exceptionally fortunate position of being co-curator of an exhibition, ‘INVENTION: Merce Cunningham and collaborators’, for the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts. I was able to work with David Vaughan, revered archivist of the Cunningham company, to liaise with others in the company over selection of items, media activities and the creation of a new work to be performed as part of the exhibition. I also participated with Cunningham, Vaughan and the third curator, Barbara Cohen-Stratyner, in the media call, presenting to the audience on the key concepts behind the exhibition.
The following images are from INVENTION. They indicate in just a small way the extent of Cunningham’s engagement with artists from across a wide creative spectrum as he went about his daily activity of dancing.
Michelle Potter, 29 July 2009
Photos: Neville Potter, 2007