Brandon Collwes, Andrea Weber, and Silas Riener of Merce Cunningham Dance Company, photo by Julieta Cervantes
This past weekend, hundreds of people gathered on the expansive, sun-drenched lawn of Rockefeller Park to see Merce Cunningham Dance Company perform the site-specific “Event” as part of the River to River Festival. Saturday’s performance was a beautiful tribute and farewell to Merce Cunningham, who died on July 26 at the age of ninety and considered New York City to be his home. Shifting among two stages separated by a narrow strip of grass, the eleven dancers moved thrillingly through phrases – in solos, duets, and trios – that were organic and fluid in one moment, disjointed and choppy in the next. The contrasts were intriguing, particularly as they were accompanied by a score that ranged from ambient to sharp electronics to brief silences. With so much to absorb in one phrase of movement, it was difficult to tear the eyes away to observe the dancers on the other stage. Cunningham’s choreography is nuanced and challenging enough on its own; in an open, outdoor space, the audience had to struggle with where to focus its attention.
The performance felt wonderfully peaceful and calming, perhaps because of Cunningham’s recent death or perhaps because of the tranquil setting and unusual hush over the lawn. This was not a gloomy affair, but rather a celebration of Cunningham’s life and influential role as an artist.
Merce Cunningham Dance Company, photo by Julieta Cervantes
Daniel Madoff, Silas Riener, and Marcie Munnerlyn of Merce Cunningham Dance Company, photo by Julieta Cervantes