While the legacy of the revolutionary choreographer Merce Cunningham (1919-2009) is being feted and celebrated in venues and on stages across the globe, millions of potential audience members can now access uniquely choreographed versions of the master’s legendary Events for free—whenever and wherever they choose—and, they can control the dancing. How is such magic possible?
Enter founder and executive editor of the award-winning 2wice magazine Patsy Tarr and its editor and designer Abbott Miller, who created an app comprised of selected photographs of the Merce Cunningham Dance Company that had appeared in four special Cunningham-dedicated issues of 2wice over the past decade.
“The series was inspired by Cunningham’s Events, which are dances arranged for a particular time or place and comprised of excerpts from the repertory,” said Ms. Tarr. “Cunningham described his Events as ‘not so much a dance, as the experience of dance.’” In the 2wice app, the photographs morph, image into image, like a dance.
The ten Cunningham Events include seven whose images were specially choreographed for the still camera by Cunningham, plus three Events comprised of video and interviews with longtime Cunningham dancers Jonah Bokaer and Holley Farmer. The accompanying text is by dance writer and critic Nancy Dalva. Providing a rare, intimate look at Cunningham’s work, the app, which honors the choreographer’s pioneering fascination with the assistance that technology can offer dance, is designed for the iPad and available for download through iTunes.
With the dancers in swimwear, shorts, Japanese robes, halters–and the then 82-year-old choreographer in white shirt, jeans and red sneakers, Event 1 takes place on a bright summer day on the roof of Westbeth, where the Cunningham studios have been located since the early 70’s.
Events 2, 3, 4, and 5 celebrate the enduring collaboration between Cunningham and Robert Rauschenberg, who created costumes and décor for many of Cunningham’s classic dances. Event 3 offers a close look at Cunningham’s witty, rarely seen 1958 “Antic Meet.” Event 4 is comprised of photographs of “Travelogue” (1977), including a necklace of tin cans that Rauschenberg attached to the orange legs of a dancer; and Event 5, based on “Interscape” (2000), presents photographs that invite an examination of the detail of the Rauschenberg’s paintings on the deep pastel-colored costumes.
Framed by the Cunningham studio’s gloriously oversized windows, Event 6, which suggests the athletic power of dancers, is based on the 1965 “How to Pass, Kick, Fall and Run.” In Event 7, the dancers, costumed in peacock blue leotard and tights and arranged to resemble imagined creatures of nature, played hide-and-seek among the deep green foliage and sculpture at the fantastical Vizcaya estate and gardens in Miami, FL.
Event 8 presents Jonah Bokaer on video performing a solo from “Split Sides” and discussing the creation of the work, while Event 9 is a solo from Cunningham’s “Loosetime” performed by Holley Farmer, who also provides a revealing description of the way in which Cunningham transferred his choreographic ideas onto her body. In Event 10, Bokaer and Farmer perform the gently erotic floor duet from “Changing Steps.”