On December 29,30 and 31, 2011, the Merce Cunningham Dance Company returned to New York City after the final company tour before its disbanding , to present six valedictory performances at the Park Avenue Armory. Performed across three stages, Park Avenue Armory Event was the culmination of nearly 60 years of cross disciplinary innovation. The company had completed its international Legacy Tour. This 3 dvd set is designed to give viewers the chance to see this historic performance as an edited film (Disc 1) and as three separate performances from each stage in its entirety (Disc 2) along with excerpts from the repertory works featured on the Legacy Tour (Disc 3). There are program notes for each stage and a illustrated essay by the noted curator and critic, Douglas Crimp.
About the Actor
Born in Centralia, Washington on April 16, 1919, Merce Cunningham was a leader of the American avant-garde whose constant innovation and artistic collaborations expanded the frontiers not only of dance, but also of contemporary visual and performing arts. Cunningham began his professional modern dance career at 20 with a six-year tenure as a soloist in the Martha Graham Dance Company. In 1944 he presented his first solo concert and in 1953 formed the legendary Merce Cunningham Dance Company (MCDC) as a forum to explore his groundbreaking ideas. MCDC was formed at Black Mountain College, and included dancers Carolyn Brown, Viola Farber, Paul Taylor, and Remy Charlip, and musicians John Cage and David Tudor. In its early years MCDC famously toured in a Volkswagen bus driven by John Cage with just enough room for six dancers, two musicians, and a stage manager, often visual artist Robert Rauschenberg. MCDC's first international tour, in 1964 which included performances in Western and Eastern Europe, India, Thailand, and Japan marked a turning point for the Company and initiated a constant stream of national and international engagements. MCDC cultivated a body of new music, commissioning more work from contemporary composers than any other dance company. Its repertory included works by musicians ranging from Cage and Christian Wolff to Gavin Bryars and Radiohead. Cage s association with the Company as Musical Advisor since its inception continued until his death in 1992, when he was succeeded by David Tudor. From 1995 to 2012, MCDC was under the music direction of Takehisa Kosugi. Over the years the Company collaborated with an array of visual artists and designers. Rauschenberg, whose famous Combines reflect the approach he used to create décor for a number of MCDC s early works, served as the Company s resident designer from 1954 through 1964. Jasper Johns followed as Artistic Advisor from 1967 until 1980, and Mark Lancaster from 1980 through 1984. The last Advisors to be appointed were William Anastasi and Dove Bradshaw in 1984. Other artists who have collaborated with MCDC include Daniel Arsham, Tacita Dean, Rei Kawakubo, Roy Lichtenstein, Bruce Nauman, Ernesto Neto, Frank Stella, Benedetta Tagliabue, and Andy Warhol. MCDC was featured extensively in film and video choreographed by Cunningham. Frequent collaborators Charles Atlas, Nam June Paik, and Elliot Caplan created historic dance films such as Life Time of Dance, Ocean, Split Sides, Beach Birds, Cage/Cunningham, and Points In Space.