Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 18 November 2019

Merce Cunningham masterpieces to be performed at NYUAD Arts Centre

The two performances are part a global programme of events that celebrate the American choreographer's centennial

Merce Cunningham's 'Biped' will be performed for the first time in the Middle East on October 30. Jef Rabillon
Merce Cunningham's 'Biped' will be performed for the first time in the Middle East on October 30. Jef Rabillon

One of the most influential names in modern dance, American choreographer Merce Cunningham was known for developing groundbreaking techniques over his 70-year career.

This month, two of his masterpieces, Biped (1999) and How to Pass, Kick, Fall and Run (1965) will be performed in the Middle East for the first time by the Centre National de Danse Contemporaine d’Angers, under the direction of Cunningham’s longtime collaborator Robert Swinston.

The event is priced at Dh100 and will take place on Wednesday, October 30 at NYU Abu Dhabi (NYUAD) Art Centre’s Red Theatre.

“Having presented the work of such icons as Trisha Brown and Lucinda Childs, it was only natural that we proceed to one of the key artistic wellsprings from which they drew, Merce Cunningham,” says Bill Bragin, Executive Artistic Director of the Arts Centre.

The performances are part of the Merce Cunningham Trust's 100 Years of Merce, a global celebration of the choreographer's centennial.

Born in 1919, Cunningham revolutionised dance by separating movement from music or story. His “choreography by chance” technique involved sequences that were determined randomly, such the flip of a coin. Other elements of his technique included positions that use the torso, legs and arms at the same time. Known to experiment and collaborate, he worked with both composers such as John Cage and artists such as Andy Warhol and Jasper Johns. He died in 2009.

Biped fuses video and dance as performers move between video projections on stage. As the title suggests, the positions compel dancers to stay on their feet throughout most of the performance. The visuals have been made by digital artists Paul Kaiser and Shelley Eshkar, with costumes by Suzanne Gallo and music by post-minimalist composer Gavin Bryars.

Cunningham's 'How to Pass, Kick, Fall and Run' has an athletic theme with no reference to games. Charlotte Audureau
Cunningham's 'How to Pass, Kick, Fall and Run' has an athletic theme with no reference to games. Charlotte Audureau

“Cunningham was light years ahead of his time in terms of incorporating technology as a tool in his creation of his choreography, and 1999’s Biped is a gorgeous exploration of dance in a video environment,” says Bragin.

One of Cunningham’s collaborations with artistic partner John Cage, How to Pass, Kick, Fall and Run is a frenetic piece with an athletic theme that keeps dancers in constant motion.

The centre’s Off the Stage workshops will provide participants the unique opportunity to learn the basic principles of the Cunningham Technique from Swinston, who worked with the Merce Cunningham Dance Company for over 30 years. The workshops will be held at the Arts Centre on Tuesday, October 29 and at Sima Dance in Alserkal Avenue on Thursday, October 31.

Details on the performance and how to request an invite to the workshops can be found on the NYUAD Art Centre’s website, nyuad-artscenter.org

Updated: October 24, 2019 04:18 PM

SHARE

SHARE