This year, 2019, is a Centennial year of celebration of Merce Cunningham's birth. April 16, 2019 marked choreographer/dancer Merce Cunningham’s 100th birthday, and we are taking the time to reflect on Cunningham’s work and his legacy as one of the most influential artists of the 20th Century.

Cunningham was known for his groundbreaking experiments in collaboration with artists from other disciplines. Cunningham’s conscious removal of his own personality in decision-making, left the experience of character, emotion, and story in his choreography to the experience of the viewer, which was complementary to the sensibilities and experiments of his contemporaries in the visual arts. Some of his most notable collaborators are represented in the permanent collection of the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth, including Robert Rauschenberg, Frank Stella, and Andy Warhol. So it is most fitting that Contemporary Dance/Fort Worth’s 16th annual Modern Dance Festival at The Modern would tie-in to the international celebration of this seminal artist.

Within a 16-day window at The Modern, a variety of films, videos, lectures, “happenings” or “events” and performances will be offered in the Grand Lobby, the Museum Auditorium, and Gallery 14. Content directly representing Cunningham’s work is provided courtesy of the Merce Cunningham Trust.

Highlights will include:

Night of 100 Solos: A Centennial Event– With the original performances having taken place on April 16th in New York City, Los Angeles, and London, the edited versions of this largest Cunningham Event ever will be displayed simultaneously in the Museum Auditorium, the Grand Lobby, and Gallery 14 on two remaining dates:

Saturday July 20, 3 pm to 4:30 pm

Museum Auditorium -- Los Angeles

Grand Lobby -- New York City

Gallery 14 -- London

Saturday July 27, 3 pm to 4:30 pm

Museum Auditorium -- London

Grand Lobby -- Los Angeles

Gallery 14 -- New York City

Special thanks to the Merce Cunningham Trust for this opportunity for local audiences to experience the end result of this special project, which featured 75 dancers from around the world performing at the Barbican, London, the Brooklyn Academy of Music (BAM) in New York, and UCLA’s Center for the Art of Performance (CAP UCLA) in Los Angeles. In each theater, 25 dancers from a wide range of practices and companies performed a distinct, 75-minute Event comprised of a unique selection of 100 solos choreographed by Cunningham, with an ensemble of musicians at the vanguard of contemporary music providing a score.

Related Tamsin Carlson Residency:

Special guest Tamsin Carlson (Los Angeles) taught a workshop in Cunningham Technique and Chance Dance Choreography for advanced/professional dancers at the Texas Dance Conservatory on July 18. A highly-recognized master teacher, Carlson was a faculty member for the Merce Cunningham Dance Company, and a member of the Repertory Understudy Group for the company for 3 years. She is currently the chair of modern dance at the Colburn School and part-time faculty at Renaissance Arts Academy. Carlson has been a member of the Rudy Perez Performance Ensemble since 2000, and previously toured with Lucinda Childs, among other notable choreographers.

On Friday July 19, Carlson will perform the Merce Cunningham solos she learned for the Night of 100 Solos: A Centennial Event project. Both opening and closing the program, Carlson will perform the solos two different ways, with chance elements determining how they are performed. Then on Saturday, July 20, she’ll join former Cunningham dancer and L.A. dance critic Jeff Slayton to introduce the screening of the documented April 16th Los Angeles performance and participate in the audience Q&A to follow.

16th annual Modern Dance Festival at The Modern overview:

An array of artists will be featured across 3 weekends in a series of films, videos, audience participation opportunities, and collaborative music and dance performances inspired by and/or related to the Merce Cunningham Centennial. Tonight the festival continues:

WEEKEND 2 – Friday July 19, Saturday July 20

Friday, July 19, 2019

6:30 pm, Grand Lobby

Performance of Dance and Music

Special guest Tamsin Carlson will perform the Merce Cunningham solos she learned for the Los Angeles performance of the Night of 100 Solos: A Centennial Event [See description near top of press release]. Both opening and closing the program, she'll perform the solos two different ways, with chance elements determining how they are performed. Mary Hill of Lightbodies Geometries (Fort Worth) will premiere "Vortical Wave." Hill created the solo structure through the process of synchronicity inspired by the I Ching, and which will be further enhanced by audience participation in the sound element. Additional performances will include choreography by Kali Taft Johnson (Kaliopi Movement Collective) and Kerry Kreiman (CD/FW) in collaboration with the performers: Cher Anabo, Courtney Mulcahy, Tina Mullone, Claudia Orcasitas, and Jessica Thomas. Special musical guests from Austin’s New Music Co-Op: composers Andrew Stoltz and Travis Weller will perform on “The Owl” (an instrument created by Weller).

Saturday, July 20, 2019

12:30 pm, Museum Auditorium

“Viola Farber and the Cunningham Legacy”

Screening of “Brazos River” and discussion with guest Jeff Slayton

A rare glimpse into The Modern’s archive, “Brazos River” (60 minutes) features the Viola Farber Dance Company in a special project which originated in Fort Worth. Shot in December 1976, this collaborative video features choreography by Viola Farber, music by David Tudor, and costumes/set by Robert Rauschenberg. The project was conceived by the Fort Worth Art Museum's Performing Arts Director, Anne Livet, in conjunction with their Texas Bicentennial program, and was co-produced by KERA-TV Channel 13, Dallas-Fort Worth. According to the Rauschenberg Foundation, this project marked Rauschenberg's first use of video, and he spent time working with studio technicians to understand what colors could be best transmitted on television. Funding for the initial project included support from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Texas Commission on the Arts & Humanities, the Fort Worth Art Museum, and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. Directed by Dan Parr. Dancers featured: Jumay Chu, Larry Clark, Viola Farber, Willi Feuer, June Finch, Anne Koren, Susan Matheke, Andé Peck, and Jeff Slayton. Guest speaker Jeff Slayton will introduce the video and lead a Q&A with the audience. Farber and Slayton were members of the Cunningham company for many years, and this project is a perfect example of how Cunningham's work impacted the work of dancers who came out of his company. Special thanks to the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth for contributing this work from their archives.

Slayton will also introduce a screening of Farber’s “January” (26 minutes) – Directed by Kevin Crooks in 1984, the Viola Farber Dance Company collaborated with TSW LTD to record her group work “January" at Dartington Hall in Devon, UK.

2:45 pm, Museum Auditorium

Introduction to the “Night of 100 Solos: A Centennial Event” screenings

Guest speakers Tamsin Carlson (featured performer from the Los Angeles location), Jeffrey Slayton (L.A. dance critic and former Cunningham company member), and Ken Tabachnik (executive director of the Merce Cunningham Trust), will give introductory remarks, background, and context regarding this special Event in honor of Merce Cunningham’s 100th birthday. In addition, all three will be available for audience Q&A immediately following the screening of the Los Angeles performance.

3 pm to 4:30 pm, three museum locations

“Night of 100 Solos” screenings

Night of 100 Solos: A Centennial Event– With the original performances taking place on April 16th in New York City, Los Angeles, and London, the edited versions of this largest Cunningham Event ever will be displayed simultaneously in three locations:

Museum Auditorium -- Los Angeles

Grand Lobby -- New York City

Gallery 14 -- London

WEEKEND 3 – Thursday July 25, Friday July 26, Saturday July 27

Thursday, July 25, & Friday, July 26, 2019

8 pm, Grand Lobby

Performance of Dance and Music

Composer/choreographer collaborative premieres featured will include:

Lynn Lane and Jennifer Mabus of The Transitory Sound and Movement Collective (Houston) will perform "An Echo of Nothing." The title is taken from the John Cage quote, "Every something is an echo of nothing."

“Blind Collaboration” a collaboration between composer German Lopez (Dallas) and choreographer Anna Preston (Preston Contemporary Dance Theatre, South Florida). Through a chance drawing it was determined that the new group work will be 7:35 in length.

Muscle Memory Dance Theatre (Dallas) will perform artistic director Lesley Snelson’s quartet “Unveil Me” to a new sound score entitled "Heuristic Manifestations" by Fort Worth composer John Hopkins. Decisions about the harmonic and melodic content, a free parameter and a textual prompt will be extracted from an I Ching reading. The yins and yangs will be assembled into the free parameter number and a code that will select one of 8 songs popular in the year of Merce Cunningham’s birth, 1919. Audience members who arrive early may have the opportunity to influence the outcome of the music for the dance by participating in the I Ching reading with the composer.

“I’m tired of talking about race” - a new duet by Mel Mobley and Tina Mullone of M2 (Monroe, LA) based on a mesostic generated in a similar fashion to John Cage’s mesostics. Using names to create spine words and then chance procedures to populate the poetry read across, the music and dance that surround and accompany the poetry were built on the same chance procedures and the resulting text choices. Though most of the poem is read throughout the performance of the work, certain lines are left unspoken in homage to John Cage’s predilection for silence.

Choreographer Claudia Orcasitas (Fort Worth) is paired with composer Andrew Stoltz (Austin’s New Music Co-Op) for the premiere of her work “In transit" based on various combinations of solos determined through chance procedures. Immediately prior to the performance, the dancers will use a chance drawing to determine which solo they will perform within the work. Inspired by Cunningham’s unconventional ways to make dances, Orcasitas is using chance elements to explore the endless possibilities of human connections within a specific place and time frame. While Cunningham's work emphasized abstracted movement without character or story line, Orcasitas is interested in seeing how the chance elements might create their own “story” in the viewer’s mind.

Additional works include a group structure by Kerry Kreiman (CD/FW) in collaboration with the performers: Cher Anabo, Courtney Mulcahy, Tina Mullone, Claudia Orcasitas, and Jessica Thomas, and composer James Talambas (Fort Worth).

Saturday, July 27, 2019

1:30 pm, Museum Auditorium

Subject vs. Object: Can Dance Be Abstract?

Lecture-performance and discussion exploring questions at the heart of the development of modern and contemporary dance. Attendees are invited to bring their questions and observations to a conversation led by CD/FW artistic director Kerry Kreiman. Experiments in trying to see human beings “abstractly” on the stage will be conducted in honor of the twentieth century dance maverick Daniel Nagrin, using some of the techniques he used to teach choreography and performance.

2:30 pm, Grand Lobby

“Found, 1972, an Open Audience Pedestrian Dance” designed by performance artist Laney Yarber. Inspired by source materials from NYC-based post-modern choreographers of the 1960’s and 70’s, Yarber’s performance structure pays homage to aesthetics established by former Cunningham company members such as Yvonne Rainer and Steve Paxton, along with cultural and aesthetic influences from Taoist master Mantak Chia, Dutch sound artist Jaap Blonk, and Russian director/actor/producer Vsevolod Meyerhold’s actor training system of “biomechanics” (which was a precursor to much of the “physical theatre” of the 20th Century). In the post-modern tradition, the purpose and boundaries of all art forms were tested to their limits, including what may or may not constitute a “dance.” Performers include: Clancy Manuel (sound creation), Tim King, Brian Patrick McCarthy, Katrina Perez-Titze, Jeffrey Pulis, Susan V. Taylor, and Laney Yarber. Volunteers from the audience will be invited to participate in a follow-the-leader fashion led by the performers.

3 pm to 4:30 pm, three Museum locations

“Night of 100 Solos” screenings

Night of 100 Solos: A Centennial Event– With the original performances taking place on April 16th in New York City, Los Angeles, and London, the edited versions of this largest Cunningham Event ever will be displayed simultaneously in three locations:

Museum Auditorium -- London

Grand Lobby -- Los Angeles

Gallery 14 -- New York City

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