I woke up this morning to news that Merce Cunningham died Sunday evening in his home in Manhattan.
I finally saw his company perform for the first time this Spring in Madrid. It was the European premiere of "Nearly Ninety," an evening-length piece he created to commemorate his 90th birthday.
Exiting the theater after the performance I felt so giddy I nearly skipped down the street. As a dancer I couldn't remember the last time I had felt so excited to watch bodies moving on stage; there was a clarity, confidence, and joy to the movement that was contagious in its beauty. Having sat through many somber and boring pieces by much younger choreographers, I was thrilled to see material fresher and more immediate than any piece I had seen in years – from someone who could have easily allowed himself to become his own footnote in the great march of Dance History. With his passing and Pina Bausch's recent death, I wonder: who are the choreographers who will transform dance in the 21st century?
On Cunningham's Company homepage, there is this quote from the Tao Te Ching:
"...only he who is willing to give his body for the sake of the world is fit to be entrusted with the world. Only he who can do it with love is worthy of being the steward of the world."
Cunningham bore this responsibility with grace and warmth.
28 July 2009