chapter  7
12 Pages

Preserving the repertory and extending the heritage of Merce Cunningham

ByKaren Eliot

This chapter expresses that the open-endedness with which the dancers and the Trust have handled the paradox of preserving and extending the repertory after Merce Cunningham's death mirrors the choreographer's unconventional aesthetics. Although as Perron acknowledged, Cunningham's teaching and choreographic methods – often employing chance operations – have been infused throughout much contemporary dance practice today, what seems in jeopardy are the unique characteristics of Cunningham style that might become diffuse without the restager's careful oversight. Preservation of the Cunningham legacy, then, requires that dancers assimilate a unique approach to the movement, a praxis that includes an appetite for risk taking. Dancers who engage with the Cunningham repertory benefit in a number of ways: they gain greater technical expertise, and they become more fluent in remembering long sequences of complexly layered movement material. At the time of writing, Cunningham's presence remains vivid and palpable in a large segment of the dance world.