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Merce Cunningham Dance Company.

Joyce Theater September 13-18,1994 Reviewed by Robert Greskovic

Merce Cunningham's "Events" are made to satisfy both the novice and the veteran Cunningham watcher. These ninety minutes of dancing, which consist of unrelated excerpts from Cunningham works combined into a one-time-only program, can serve as an introductory sampler to his inimitable way with choreography or they can challenge the connoisseur. While the neophyte is wondering where such original, artful activity can possibly come from, the Cunningham enthusiast can happily puzzle over the sources of the excerpts.

In between these extremes, the "Event" serves to reclaim, albeit momentarily and only in part, past Cunningham dances that no longer interest the dancemaker enough to have them performed in his current repertoire. This year marked the thirtieth anniversary of the first "Event"; in honor of the milestone Cunningham included segments of works that date from the mid-sixties.

For me, having played the potential guessing game in Cunningham's "Events" ever since I acquired enough familiarity to make it workable, the "Joyce Events," as the most recent were tagged, not only constituted rewarding, fresh journeys through Cunninghamland, but also offered rare glimpses of works not seen hereabouts in my day.

Once in a while the new context provided by these performances would transform familiar dancing so thoroughly that I didn't recognize it. But mostly the unfamiliar moments came from dances unknown to me. By asking around I learned, however, that the grave solo that takes the leggy and pliant Thomas Caley on a diagonal downstage in a sedately baroque sequence of deep plies, slow-motion, whip-lashed extensions into promenade, and open-stance boltings in the air was originally one Cunningham did in Suite for Five f rom 1956.

For this anniversary Robert Rauschenberg devised a vividly colored photomontage backcloth for the stage and chose the colors for Suzanne Gallo's handsome unitards. (In the three "Events" I saw, the color scheme was intense indigo twice and creamy raspberry once.) David Tudor, Takehisa Kosugi, Stuart Dempster, and Ron Kuivila provided each performance with specially devised soundscores.

Sometimes the excerpts were extensive and costumed with reference to their sources. For a substantial chunk of the 1964 Winterbranch, the dancers wore black sweatshirts, sweatpants, and sneakers to simulate the original Rauschenberg designs, which included watch caps. The compelling deadweight details of this dark dance were given with chilling fullness by the sextet of dancers involved, most notably in the plush and strong dancing of Frederic Gafner and in the supple and lavish work of Jenifer Weaver.

Luscious grouping inventions, most especially from Roaratorio, and zany, eccentric activities, notably those of Deli Commedia, also stood out. But perhaps most prominent of all was the singularly riveting presence of Cunningham himself. Dressed in a lilac or pink turtleneck and charcoal gray suit, the silver-haired maestro padded in and out of his garden of unearthly delights like a devilish shaman, sometimes just sitting askew on a chair with utter aplomb.
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Title Annotation:Joyce Theater, New York, New York
Author:Greskovic, Robert
Publication:Dance Magazine
Article Type:Dance Review
Date:Dec 1, 1994
Words:486
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