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  • Merce Cunningham Dance Company: Split Sides
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Merce Cunningham Dance Company: Split Sides


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Merce Cunningham Dance Company: Split Sides + Paul Taylor Dance Company in Paris + Never Stand Still: Dancing at Jacob's Pillow
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Editorial Reviews

Product Description

An ARTPIX release. Merce Cunningham s Split Sides (2003) captures the iconic modernist choreographer s most radical use of chance procedures. As the title implies, the piece is divided into two parts. Each 20-minute part features one of two options for the different creative elements of the piece: set design, costumes, lighting, music, and choreography. The order in which each element appears during a given performance is determined by an onstage dice roll before the performance, captured on full screen for the live audience. There are thus 32 possible combinations for any performance of Split Sides. In addition to Merce Cunningham s two choreographic segments, the work features two set designs (one by Robert Heishman and one by Catherine Yass), two sets of costumes (by James Hall), and two lighting plots (by James F. Ingalls). Original scores, composed specifically for this collaboration by the British alternative rock group Radiohead and the Icelandic experimentalist group Sigur Rós, offer the two choices of music. This two-disc DVD set, by giving viewers the opportunity to alternate soundtracks, presents 4 of the 32 possible variations of the work. Filmmaker Charles Atlas masterfully captures the dance with Merce close at his side. Cunningham calls the films Split Sides 45 and Split Sides 46, because they capture the 45th and 46th performances of this epic collaboration.

About the Director

Working in tandem with Merce Cunningham (1919-2009), Charles Atlas has directed or collaborated on over 35 film or video projects with Cunningham Dance Company.  Atlas was the company’s filmmaker in residence from 1974-1983.  Atlas is internationally acclaimed for his original film work as well as for his films of dance.

Special Features

None.

Product Details

  • Actors: Merce Cunningham, Holley Farmer, Jonah Bokaer, Lisa Boudreau, Robert Heishman
  • Directors: Merce Cunningham, Charles Atlas
  • Format: Multiple Formats, Color, NTSC
  • Language: English
  • Region: All Regions
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
  • Number of discs: 2
  • Rated: G (General Audience)
  • Studio: ArtPix
  • DVD Release Date: June 30, 2009
  • Run Time: 120 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B0026BTRVE
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #147,412 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)

Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

5 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Lesser Knowns on November 10, 2009
Length: 1:15 Mins
If you enjoy experimental dance, you need to add this to your dance DVD collection. I recommend "Split Sides - Merce Cunningham Dance Company" because it is an intriguing idea for a role of dice to decide the costumes, set design, music, lighting, and choreography. The dancers are extraordinary, the costumes are unusual and they dance to two of my favorite bands, Sigur Ros and Radiohead. Watching the choreography to the music was a delight.
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By George F. Taylor on March 2, 2015
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I will never like Merce Cunningham's choreography. Somehow I think dance should have some relationship with the music, and I will never believe in art by chance. Split Sides gives you four versions out of a possible 36 of the same dance. You can watch it with the, sound really, of Sigur Ros first and then Radiohead, or you can have it with Radiohead first and then Sigur Ros. You can also watch it with no sound at all except what the dancers make. Cunningham has always considered the music only a sort of container for the dance. He always makes his dances without music. Usually the music and dance only come together the first time at the dress rehearsal.

Here Cunningham gives the dancers a set of dance phrases, and then dice are thrown to determine in what order the phrases are to be performed. How the dancers manage to keep the various versions in their heads is a mystery, especially since there is no music to aid them. I bought this DVD only because, like it or not, Cunningham has had an enormous influence on contemporary dance. Even though nobody else has really copied him, many choreographers have and do use aspects of his dance, especially the very angular posture he favors. Merce Cunningham was post-modern almost before there was modern. Anyone who really wants to understand contemporary dance will have to know something of Cunningham's work. That's just how it is.
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By valm on January 2, 2014
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The dancing techniques very done quite well without one getting tired of watching the choreography. Merce Cunningham was also deservedly honored at BAM in Brooklyn not too long ago.I was trying to get the dvd he had done in London along with John Cage, and their dancers. Hopefully very soon.
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This is the 100th anniversary of John Cage's birth, and it's important to notice not just his music (4'33'' the most famous/infamous) but his lifetime collaboration with his partner Merce Cunningham. Cunningham started as a Martha Graham dancer, perhaps the most physically brilliant of all her dancers. Merce became interested in the new music--aleatory, random, etc and wanted to fashion dances using those techniques. The music does not echo or guide the dancers' movements which can make it more challenging to follow, especially by the dancers. The abstraction of the dances does have echoes from some of Balanchine's dances; pure movement telling its own "tale". The dances are incredibly beautiful (would Merce have liked such a characterization? perhaps not) The only reason I didn't give this 5 stars was the anger that these dances were not filmed at the beginning of the troupe's' history but not until the end. Filming was expensive at the time and they were always operating on a shoestring.

Get the film, but also read Caroline Brown's Chance and Circumstance, about her years as a Cunningham dancer. It's marvelous!Chance and Circumstance: Twenty Years with Cage and Cunningham
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Merce Cunningham Dance Company: Split Sides
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