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Dance News: March, a Month of Merce, as the 92Y Presents 25 Years of The Harkness Dance Festival Celebrating the Centenary of Merce Cunningham

Dance News: March, a Month of Merce, as the 92Y Presents 25 Years of The Harkness Dance Festival Celebrating the Centenary of Merce Cunningham

Published on February 25, 2019
"The Curtain And The Heartbeat," Mixed media painting on wood.

Five Weekends of Cunningham Choreography plus World Premieres Representing the work Four Generations of Cunningham Dancers

92Y’s Harkness Dance Festival celebrates its 25th season celebrating Merce Cunningham’s centennial. For five weekends from March 1-30, HDF presents performances of Merce Cunningham’s own choreography including Cross Currents, Doubles, Landrover, Loose Time, Scenario, Septet, and Trails, danced by New York Theatre Ballet, Melissa Toogood, Calvin Royal III and New World School of the Arts. The Festival continues with four weekends of world premieres representing four generations of Cunningham dancers who established companies of their own - Douglas Dunn (Douglas Dunn + Dancers), Dylan Crossman (Dylan Crossman Dans(c)e), Johan Bokaer (Jonah Bokaer Choreography) and Ellen Cornfield (Cornfield Dance).

Merce Cunningham had a long history with 92Y. He appeared here 11 times, beginning with his first performances in 1943 as a dancer with Martha Graham and Company. He also participated in literary events and lectures, including his final 92Y appearance in 1994 in conversation with Deborah Jowitt as part of the “Breaking Ground” lecture series that also included such guests as Erick Hawkins, Judith Jamison, Twyla Tharp, Mark Morris, Bill T. Jones, and Jerome Robbins.

Merce Cunningham. Photo by James Klosty.

The Festival also includes two new related events:

Art Exhibit

An exhibit of Merce Cunningham-related photographs is on view in 92Y’s Weill Art Gallery from March 1 – April 1. Merce Cunningham: Passing Time 1967-2011, features the work of James Klosty and Stephanie Berger. The opening reception is on March 1 at 5:30 pm; click that link to RSVP.

Harkness Dance Festival conversation

Drawing Dance: On Tour with The Merce Cunningham Dance Company
Kenneth E. Parris III, Melissa Toogood, Douglas Dunn, Dylan Crossman, Kimberly Bartosik, and other guests

Sat, Mar 2, 2019, 6 pm, from $15

Painter Kenneth E. Parris III spent 104 weeks with the Merce Cunningham Dance Company on its final legacy tour before disbanding. Through acrylic, graphite, and other media, he documented the dancers’ historically significant story, one of courage and physical sacrifice. Unlike the iconographic images of the events on stage, Parris’s work captures intimate moments, loud parties, the rigors of traveling, celebratory dinners, exhaustion, and many rituals. All these scenes express the essence and complexity of the dancers’ personalities and underline their drive to make lasting beauty with Merce, who had since passed. With members of the company, past and present, Parris shares these images to reveal the experience of dancing and touring with and without Merce, telling their compelling personal stories through conversation and visual art and discussing the indelible impressions of the choreographer and his dances.


March 1 - 30


New York Theatre Ballet, New World School of the Arts, Melissa Toogood, and Calvin Royal III
Fri, Mar 1, 8 pm; Sat, Mar 2, 4 and 8 pm, from $35

The festival’s opening weekend features dances by the master, himself. New York Theatre Ballet performs Cunningham’s Septet and Cross Currents. Melissa Toogood performs Cunningham solos from Doubles, Landrover and Loose Time. Melissa Toogood and Calvin Royal III perform duets from Scenario and Trails. MinEvent performed by New World School of the Arts, staged by Melissa Toogood.

Fri, Mar 8, 8 pm; Sat, Mar 9, 4 and 8 pm, from $35

Douglas Dunn, who danced with Merce from 1969-1973, presents a world premiere with his company, Douglas Dunn + Dancers. Dunn’s choreography has been likened to ‘an explorer of the impossible,’ and is rooted in intuition and the moving body that reveals the organic formations of movement mixed with the playful and witty.

Dylan Crossman Dans(c)e. Photo Credit: John Suhar

Fri, Mar 15, 8 pm; Sat, Mar 16, 4 and 8 pm, from $35

Dylan Crossman, who joined Merce Cunningham Dance Company in 2009 and worked with the company through its Legacy Tour, presents a world premiere for his company, Dylan Crossman Dans(c)e. Crossman, an active and acclaimed dancer, as a compelling choreographer looks at human behavior within formalism and has been noted for his “freshness of experimentalism” (New York Times).

Fri, Mar 22, 8 pm; Sat, Mar 23, 4 and 8 pm, from $35

Jonah Bokaer, who danced with Merce Cunningham from 2000-2007, presents a world premiere for his company, Jonah Bokaer Choreography. Bokaer cultivates a multi-disciplinary approach to choreography that merges with art and design by enlarging the role of contemporary performance to enhance its contribution to society. “Conceptual, precise, breathtaking”, Bokaer is the author of 60 choreographic works.

Fri, Mar 29, 8 pm; Sat, Mar 30, 4 and 8 pm, from $35

Ellen Cornfield/Cornfield Dance exemplifies the exhilarating combination of heart and intellect, performed by dancers who “are among the most proficient technical and kinetically expressive dancers around” (Gus Solomons, 2014) and reveling in a mix of the elegant, robust and quirky.

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