In 1989, as he approached the age of 70, Merce Cunningham began experimenting with LifeForms, a computer animation program that represents the dancer’s body as a series of concentric circles. Seated at the computer, Cunningham can dictate-and simultaneously record-a wide variety of choreographic variables (everything from the flexing of a joint to the height and/or length of a jump, the location of each dancer on stage, the transition from one phrase to the next, and so on). By the early 1990s, Cunningham had became the first choreographer of international renown who routinely utilized the computer as a choreographic tool. (So much for the popular belief that the digital revolution is exclusively a young person’s game.)
The earliest dance Cunningham choreographed with the assistance of LifeForms was “Trackers” in 1991. And significantly, when Cunningham appeared on stage in this work, he did so with the assistance of a portable barre that also seemed to function as a “walker.” Was there a connection between these two, seemingly unrelated, facts?