ABSTRACT

One day in 1987, at a conference in New York called "Merce Cunningham and the New Dance," the conference participants were saying the usual things about Merce Cunningham: how he used chance techniques to force his imagination past conventional patterns of theatrical movement, how he separated dance from decor and music in order to avoid any overdirective unity of impression - anything that would force a "meaning" on his audience - and how, by these means, he released dance from any referential necessity, restoring to it its true, self-sufficient essence. Then, in the midst of this listing of Cunningham's exemplary achievements in the service of modernist autotelism, the great Cunningham dancer Carolyn Brown, who was one of the panelists on the stage, drew in a breath and said, "Don't believe what you're told. All those dances have stories."