Merce Cunningham: Fifty Years.Any book that attempts to do justice to the life and creations of an artist as unique as Merce Cunningham is morally obligated ob·li·gate
tr.v. ob·li·gat·ed, ob·li·gat·ing, ob·li·gates
1. To bind, compel, or constrain by a social, legal, or moral tie. See Synonyms at force.
2. To cause to be grateful or indebted; oblige. to be, at the very least, extraordinary. This fall, Aperture rose to the challenge by publishing Merce Cunningham: Fifty Years ($75), a "chronicle and commentary" by David Vaughan (the Cunningham company's archivist since 1976), edited by Melissa Harris. With 320 sturdily bound pages and 350 handsomely reproduced illustrations, it could easily be mistaken for another oversized coffee-table tome. Opening it at any point, however, reveals a wealth of research presented in an enlivening manner. Quotes from journals, interviews, and reviews will share the page with an Isamu Noguchi costume sketch or a Jasper Johns set design or a photograph by Barbara Morgan.
After recounting Cunningham's youth, the book becomes, with 1942, a year-by-year document of his career. On April 5, 1944, we read, he and John Cage gave their first joint concert of solo pieces, which Cage considered the beginning of their long collaboration. In 1945, we find Edwin Denby praising Cunningham for reminding us "that there are pure dance values in modern technique," hailing his "elastic physical rhythm [that is] peculiarly American" and asking "for more risk in expression." Denby closes: "There is no reason why he shouldn't develop into a great dancer." He left Martha Graham's company that year, and this marvelous volume illustrates his career right up through the creation of Ocean, in 1994.
Each decade is introduced with a double-page that serves as commentary on an example of the troupe's unstoppable growth in personnel and achievement. A gauzy black-and-white spread of Cunningham and four dancers brings on the 1950s, but midway in that section, after Robert Rauschenberg designs Minutiae mi·nu·ti·a
n. pl. mi·nu·ti·ae
A small or trivial detail: "the minutiae of experimental and mathematical procedure" Frederick Turner. (1954), a two-page spread bursts with color and texture. From then on, color, props, and succeeding generations of dancers herald the years to come. The performance photo that introduces the 1990s (Trackers, 1991) finds everyone pensively pen·sive
1. Deeply, often wistfully or dreamily thoughtful.
2. Suggestive or expressive of melancholy thoughtfulness. strolling about in sum clothes; Cunningham, a gaunt and grizzled figure in black, stands with arms outstretched out·stretch
tr.v. out·stretched, out·stretch·ing, out·stretch·es
To stretch out; extend.
Adjective -- on a diagonal, naturally.
A selected bibliography, a roster of company members, and a chronology of work (through 1996, despite the title) are included in this treasurable volume.
Deborah Jowitt discovered that no book in English has been written on Meredith Monk after begining to gather material for the anthology she was editing, the first work to be published by Johns Hopkins Press in its Art + Performance Series (Meredith Monk, $34.95; paper, $19.95). Jowitt had her work cut out for her in gathering essays about a pioneering artist who boldly extended the boundaries of filmmaking and theater, of choreography and composition. Excerpts from Monk's journals and interviews she has given are included, along with essays and reviews by, among others, Marcia B. Siegel, Tobi Tobias, Laura Shapiro, Mark Berger, and Jowitt.
Ellen Graff's Stepping Left: Dance and Politics in New York City New York City: see New York, city.
New York City
City (pop., 2000: 8,008,278), southeastern New York, at the mouth of the Hudson River. The largest city in the U.S. , 1928-1942 (Duke University Press, $49.95; paper, $17.95) should be grimly diverting for readers frustrated and dismayed by the political restrictions involved with the National Endowment for the Arts National Endowment for the Arts (NEA)
Independent agency of the U.S. government that supports the creation, dissemination, and performance of the arts. It was created by the U.S. . Graff, in gracious, blessedly un-academic prose, reminds us that the federal government's first attempt to fund creators and performers, the dance wing of the Federal Theatre Project (set up by the Roosevelt Administration under the WPA WPA: see Work Projects Administration.
in full Works Progress Administration later (1939–43) Work Projects Administration
U.S. work program for the unemployed. in 1936) was also a storm-tossed affair. Reactionary congressmen back then were also fuming about federal funds going to radicals. Hadn't the New Dance Group built its first recital, in 1933, on the theme "The Dance Is a Weapon"? To modern dancers, however, such yahoos weren't as menacing as Don Oscar Becque, the first choice to administer the FTP's dance wing. His having been a student of Cecchetti was ominous enough for followers of Graham, Humphrey, Tamiris, and Holm. Boeque's hopeful proposal that they all adopt a "common denominator" or catchall catch·all
1. A receptacle or storage area for odds and ends.
2. Something that encompasses a wide variety of items or situations: modern style to simplify matters made the WPA a joke for years. Excellent illustrations add to the book's considerable merit. Particularly sobering is one of the "astonishing a·ston·ish
tr.v. as·ton·ished, as·ton·ish·ing, as·ton·ish·es
To fill with sudden wonder or amazement. See Synonyms at surprise. array of bodies" assembled for that 1933 NDG NDG Notre-Dame de Grace (Montreal district)
NDG No Damn Good
NDG National Distribution Guide
NDG Network Development Group
NDG Nuclear Density Gauge
NDG No Date Given
NDG Numéro de Désignation de Groupement recital. Weapons, indeed.
Music critics were also a considerable impediment to the acceptance of modern dance, Lynne Conner points out in her Spreading the Gospel of the Modern Dance: Newspaper Dance Criticism in the United States, 1850-1934 (University of Pittsburgh Press The University of Pittsburgh Press is a scholarly publishing house and a major American university press in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA.
The Press was established in September 1936 by University of Pittsburgh Chancellor John Gabbert Bowman. , $35; paper, $17.95). Isadora Duncan, the founding mother of the form, found herself scorned after her 1908 recital because she had set her solo to Beethoven's Seventh Symphony. New York Times music critic Richard Aldrich, who covered dance, berated her for "laying violent hands on a great masterpiece." Not until 1913, when the Times assigned Carl Van Vechten Carl Van Vechten (June 17, 1880 – December 21, 1964) was an American writer and photographer who was a patron of the Harlem Renaissance and the literary executor of Gertrude Stein. (also a music critic) to cover dance exclusively, did a U.S. newspaper consider dance a full-time beat -- and when Van Vechten left journalism that very year, the paper kept the post vacant until 1927, when it hired John Martin. Aside from an early chapter on Boston, Conner concentrates with scholarly diligence on New York City in a study inevitably marked, as she ruefully admits, "with rifts: disrupture, counter-evidence, roughness."
Jack Anderson, one of three full-time critics currently on the Times, surveys the entire field in Art Without Boundaries: The World of Modern Dance (University of Iowa Press The University of Iowa Press is a university press that is part of the University of Iowa. External link
unidentifiable - impossible to identify dancers" prevent his book from being a mere accumulation of arid data.