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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Cunningham company brings final tour to UA

    It’s the end of an era, and a performance art giant will heave one of its final breaths in Tucson.

    On Saturday, UApresents audiences have the extraordinary opportunity to witness one of the final performances of the Merce Cunningham Dance Company, one of the most influential and groundbreaking companies of its time.

    The company, which was founded by master choreographer Merce Cunningham in 1953, will stop in Tucson on its two-year “”Legacy Tour.”” Showcasing 18 of Cunningham’s most influential works, the Legacy Tour will be the final opportunity for audiences to see Cunningham’s original creations performed by the last dancers he personally trained. After its final performance in New York City on Dec. 31, the company will officially disband.   

    Cunningham, whose 70-year career ended with his passing in 2009, was a trailblazer of the American avant-garde movement in the 1970s. An illustrious thinker and mover, Cunningham’s innovative and exploratory approach to dancing pushed the boundaries of the art and other collaborative art forms. He broke away from linear story-based dances, and instead began experimenting with concepts of space, time and technology. During the course of his career, Cunningham produced more than 150 dances, as well as over 800 of what he called “”Events,”” on which he collaborated with artists including Andy Warhol, John Cage, Robert Rauschenberg and Radiohead.

    Tucson audiences will have the opportunity to see three such works at the performance on Saturday: Xover, Crises, and the innovative Biped — Cunningham’s exploration of motion capture technology.

    Preceding the show this Friday, 50 UA students in the School of Dance will have the privilege to take a class with Robert Swinston, the senior dancer and director of choreography of the Merce Cunningham Dance Company.

    Doug Nielsen, a professor of modern dance in UA’s School of Dance, personally trained with Cunningham and disciples Gus Solomons Jr. and Viola Farber from 1975 through 1985. Nielsen is enthusiastic about his students experiencing this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

    “”Merce (Cunningham), Gus (Solomons Jr.) and Viola (Farber) influenced my methodology in teaching and choreography by allowing chance and spontaneity to free my imagination, particularly in regard to structure, sequencing and the relationship to music,”” Nielsen said.

    Whether you dance or not, the Legacy Tour is poised to redefine the way audiences think about performance art. According to Nielsen, “”Cunningham’s method of allowing dance, music and setting to maintain a respectable independence in performance was a radical way of thinking that is still relevant today.””

     

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