American Dance Guild, Joniece Boykins, Photo: Alexander Bryant
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Dance News: Merce Cunningham Trust, the Barbican, BAM, and CAP UCLA Announce "Night of 100 Solos: A Centennial Event"

Dance News: Merce Cunningham Trust, the Barbican, BAM, and CAP UCLA Announce "Night of 100 Solos: A Centennial Event"

Published on December 3, 2018
Merce Cunningham & Losa Rinpoche. Credit: Merce Cunningham Trust

Legendary American choreographer Merce Cunningham’s 100th Birthday Will See The Largest Cunningham Event Ever Staged in London, New York City, and Los Angeles.

On April 16, 2019—the late, legendary American choreographer Merce Cunningham’s 100th birthday—the largest Cunningham Event ever staged will take place in London, New York City, and Los Angeles. 

The schedule of activities for the Merce Cunningham Centennial, which began in September 2018 and runs through the end of 2019, grows as participating companies and institutions continue to announce their programs. Please see the calendar on the Merce Cunningham Trust website for the most up-to-date schedule.

The Merce Cunningham Trust, the Barbican, London, BAM in New York City, and UCLA’s Center for the Art of Performance (CAP UCLA) in Los Angeles announce the extensive lineup of stagers, dancers, musicians, visual artists, and costume designers contributing to the largest Cunningham Event ever, Night of 100 Solos: A Centennial Event. The multi-city performance—to be held only once, on what would have been the 100th birthday (Tuesday, April 16, 2019) of the late, legendary American choreographer Merce Cunningham—will bring together 75 dancers from around the world. In each of the three venues, 25 of them, along with an ensemble of musicians at the vanguard of contemporary music, will perform a distinct, 75-minute event that consists of a unique selection of 100 solos choreographed by Cunningham.

John Cage and Merce Cunningham watching rehearsal, Westbeth, 1971. Photo by James Klosty.

Night of 100 Solos is a highlight of the Merce Cunningham Centennial, a global celebration that began in September and runs through the end of 2019. With the Centennial, the Merce Cunningham Trust gives a broad audience the opportunity to experience the range of Cunningham’s work and process—and extends his impact into the future.

Each city’s Night of 100 Solos performance is being curated by a former Cunningham dancer who, working with other Cunningham alumni, will provide artistic direction and transmit the choreography to the dancers. At the Barbican, Daniel Squire, a Merce Cunningham Dance Company member from 1998 to 2009 who currently teaches Cunningham Technique® at London’s Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance, will stage the Event with associate stagers Ashley Chen and Cheryl Therrien. At BAM, Patricia Lent, a member of the Merce Cunningham Dance company from 1984 to 1993, and a Trustee and Director of Licensing for the Merce Cunningham Trust, and associate stager Jean Freebury will oversee the performance. At CAP UCLA, Andrea Weber—who danced with the Merce Cunningham Dance Company from 2004 to 2011, and who teaches Cunningham Technique at New York City Center, Barnard College, and the Joffrey Jazz and Contemporary Trainee program—will work with associate stager Dylan Crossman.

Nearly half of Cunningham’s former dancers will participate in the coaching and staging of the various solos. As part of the its ongoing effort to gather and preserve as much information as possible about how to stage Cunningham’s dances, the Trust will film the passing on of information from dancer to dancer for Night of 100 Solos. The recordings will become part of the Trust’s Dance Capsules—collections of assets for the future study and performance of Cunningham’s works.

Ken Tabachnick, Executive Director of the Merce Cunningham Trust and Executive Producer of Night of 100 Solos, says, “This Event, and the longstanding, continuing partnerships with these three premier organizations, are true signs that the Cunningham legacy is alive and well ten years after his passing.”

Trevor Carlson, Centennial Producer, Creative Producer for Night of 100 Solos, and Trustee of the Merce Cunningham Trust, says, “I think Merce would really appreciate so many dancers, musicians, and artists—a mix of old friends and friends he hadn’t met yet—coming together to celebrate. On a personal note, it’s exciting to see how Merce’s legacy continues to push boundaries, inspire new art, and move dancers in ways they didn’t know were possible.”

Merce Cunningham, with John Cage seated on right of stage.

The wide-ranging lineup of artists contributing to Night of 100 Solos reveals how many areas of the performing arts world Cunningham’s work has touched, and demonstrates that his legacy continues to live in a new generation. The evening will feature dancers from a wide range of practices and companies, coming from some three dozen ensembles, such as Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, Candoco Dance Company, Dresden-Frankfurt Dance Company, the Martha Graham Dance Company, New York City Ballet, The Royal Ballet, and the Trisha Brown Dance Company. Similarly, musical director John King chose musicians with a diverse set of relationships and connections to Cunningham. While each venue’s Night of 100 Solos score and choreography will be distinct, costumes designed by Reid Bartelme and Harriet Jung and John Cage’s 4’33 will unify the three programs. Exemplifying Cunningham’s embrace of technology and the Trust’s commitment to accessibility, the event will be live-streamed through Nel Shelby Productions, making each performance available to anyone, anywhere in the world.

The Barbican will honor Cunningham’s history at the Centre, with their performance featuring a solo from every world or European premiere Cunningham presented at the venue. Dancers will include Harry Alexander, Matthew Ball,Elly Braund, Siobhan Davies, Inés Depauw, Daphne Fernberger, Jonathan Goddard, Asha Gracia, Thomasin Gülgeç, Francesca Hayward, Hannah Kidd, Catherine LeGrand, Sophie Martin, Estela Merlos, Mbulelo Ndabedi, Michael Nunn, Rowan Parker, Elsa Raymond, Joseph Sissens, Beatriz Stix-Brunell, Toke Strandby, Asha Thomas, Billy Trevitt, Luc Verbitzky, and Ben Warbis. London’s Music Coordinator, Christian Wolff, will work with musicians Mira Benjamin, John Lely, Anton Lukoszevieze, and Christian Marclay to provide the score. The performance will feature “Shadows Cast by Readymades,” a black-and-white video collage that the late Richard Hamilton made for a Cunningham performance at the Barbican in 2005. “Shadows Cast by Readymades” draws on the works of Marcel Duchamp, whose groundbreaking ideas inspired Cunningham, Cage, and Hamilton.

Studio Wayne McGregor in London is supporting Night of 100 Solos as part of their FreeSpace program, a unique initiative though which artists receive free studio space in return for offering learning and engagement opportunities to schools and communities. The Merce Cunningham Trust will rehearse at Studio Wayne McGregor's bespoke dance studios on Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, and in exchange will provide opportunities for the local community, general public and dancers to access activity including talks, open rehearsals and masterclasses.

Dancing on the BAM Howard Gilman Opera House stage for Night of 100 Solos will be Kyle Abraham, Christian Allen, Reid Bartelme, Jacqueline Bulnes, Cecily Campbell, Peiju Chien-Pott, Maggie Cloud, Jason Collins, Marc Crousillat, Angela Falk, Tamisha Guy, Jacquelin Harris, Forrest Hersey, Eleanor Hullihan, Shayla-Vie Jenkins, Claude “CJ” Johnson, Lindsey Jones, Sara Mearns, Sharon Milanese, Chalvar Monteiro, David Norsworthy, Keith Sabado, Vicky Shick, Joshua Tuason, and Anson Zwingelberg. The music is being created, and will be performed live, by David Behrman, Gelsey Bell, John King, Matana Roberts, and Jesse Stiles.Acclaimed painter Pat Steir—whose work is largely influenced by Cunningham’s closest collaborator and life partner, John Cage—provides a projected set. This performance, presenting a unique work today and not trying to recreate the past, mirrors Cunningham’s approach to programming, including his many shows at BAM.

Baryshnikov Arts Center (BAC) has provided studio space for the Night of 100 Solos creative team and cast to rehearse the BAM performance, continuing BAC’s longstanding relationship with the Merce Cunningham Trust. Home to the John Cage and Merce Cunningham Studio, BAC is a frequent collaborator of the Trust and has hosted multiple Cunningham performances, residencies, workshops, public showings, and classes, demonstrating and preserving the choreographer’s technique and repertoire.

Merce Cunningham in "Antic Meet," 1958. Chair by Robert Rauschenberg. Photo credit: Richard Rutledge.

The Night of 100 Solos lineup at UCLA’s Center for the Art of Performance offers a glimpse of the strength and breadth of the Los Angeles dance community. The evening’s dancers will include Paige Amicon, Barry Brannum, Lorrin Brubaker, Rena Butler, Tamsin Carlson, Frances Chiaverini, Erin Dowd, Katherine Helen Fisher, Joshua Guillemot-Rodgerson, Casey Hess, Thomas House, Laurel Jenkins, Burr Johnson, Vanessa Knouse, Cori Kresge, Brian Lawson, Jessica Liu, Victor Lozano, Daniel McCusker, Polly Motley, Jermaine Maurice Spivey, Savannah Spratt, Ros Warby, and Riley Watts. Music Coordinator Stephan Moore, as well as Madison Greenstone, Bethan Kellough, Stephanie Richards, and Suzanne Thorpe, will create the live score. Installation artist Jennifer Steinkamp contributes the set design. 

For the Event, solos will appear onstage individually, in groups, or overlapping one another. The solos will range in duration from 30 seconds to eight minutes. As a gift to the dancers participating, and in the hopes of sharing Cunningham’s work beyond this one evening, the Merce Cunningham Trust is giving them permission to perform their respective solos at no cost for two years.

The Howard Gilman Foundation is a major funder for Night of 100 Solos.

The Merce Cunningham Centennial unites artists, companies, and cultural and educational institutions around the world in a multifaceted demonstration of Cunningham’s vital legacy. From New York to New Zealand, through performances, film screenings, discussions, curricula, and more, audiences have already begun to experience the work, ideas, and influence of an artist who expanded the frontiers of the performing and visual arts.  

Merce Cunningham’s approach to how the body moves in time and space continues to reframe the ways we understand movement and choreography. The Merce Cunningham Trust maintains Cunningham’s legacy through active engagement with current and new generations of dancers and audiences. Paramount in its efforts is the goal of ensuring that the proper resources exist for Cunningham’s work to flourish with these groups. Recognizing the unique nature of dance, including its ephemerality, the Trust focuses on how Cunningham’s choreographic output can be transmitted from body to body, in addition to preserving and disseminating records and written aspects of the work.

The Cunningham Centennial and its programs are generously supported with major funding from the Merce Cunningham Trust, the Paul L. Wattis Foundation, American Express, and Judith Pisar.

Centennial Community Programs are supported with a major gift from the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation.

Additional funding has been provided by The Gladys Krieble Delmas Foundation, the Foundation for Contemporary Arts, Judy and Alan Fishman, Molly Davies, Myra Malkin, and Barbara Pine.

NIGHT OF 100 SOLOS: A CENTENNIAL EVENT - SCHEDULE AND TICKETS:

The Barbican, London (Silk St, London EC2Y 8DS, UK), April 16, 2019, at 7:45pm (BDT). Tickets are currently available at barbican.org.uk.

BAM’s Howard Gilman Opera House (Peter Jay Sharp Building, 30 Lafayette Avenue, Brooklyn, NY 11217), April 16, 2019, at 7:30pm (EDT). Tickets are available at BAM.org for members and patrons now, and to the general public starting on December 11, 2018.

UCLA’s Center for the Art of Performance (340 Royce Dr, Los Angeles, CA 90095) on April 16, 2019 at 8pm (PDT). Tickets are currently available at cap.ucla.edu

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