by Donald Hutera
Merce Cunningham, commonly acknowledged
as the America’s greatest living choreographer, is kicking off Umbrella
2002 with Fluid Canvas, a Barbican co-commission and world premiere, and
repertory work (Tue 10 to Sat 14 Sep) at the Barbican Theatre. But that’s
not all the venerable gentleman will be offering to dance-goers this year.
Umbrella has seized the opportunity to create a week-long residency with
him and his company. This is the troupe’s first major residency in the
UK, and a part of a programme of events marking its 50th anniversary.
Umbrella is joining forces with London Contemporary Dance School, which
is co-producing the week and providing the newly-renovated school as a
Residency co-ordinator and free-lance conference producer Elizabeth Anderson
is excited about the entire agenda. “The range and variety of the week’s
activities will provide unprecedented access to the company through classes
and rehearsals, a study day, film screenings, a teachers’ discussion group
and interviews with key collaborators. We’re privileged that Merce himself
will be present at a number of events, and that company archivist David
Vaughan, who has been with the company since the early 1950s, will also
Not all of the residency is open to the public, but those events which
are should not be missed. Take the Study Day (Mon 16 Sep, 2pm-9.30pm).
It features, in addition to an interview with Cunningham, panel discussions
with past and present company members. Included among the former are Carolyn
Brown, who danced with Cunningham between 1953 and 1972, and England’s
Emma Diamond, who was a company member from 1988 to 1994.
The day has been organised by dance/theatre critic Alastair Macaulay,
and will conclude with screenings of rare video footage of the company
in rehearsal and performance between 1944 and 1995. On Tuesday 17 September
Bob Lockyer, former executive producer of dance programmes at the BBC,
presents three films of Cunningham’s work stretching from 1964 to 1991.
The following evening at 6pm Charles Atlas’s award-winning documentary,
Merce Cunningham - A Lifetime of Dance, will be shown. Later at 8pm, current
Cunningham dancer Daniel Roberts will perform his reconstruction of Totem
Ancestor, Cunningham’s first important solo dating from 1942.
At 6pm on Thursday 19 September you can see Elliot Caplan’s award-winning
documentary about Cunningham and his on and offstage partner, the late
composer John Cage. Two hours later omposer and company musical director
Takehisa Kosugi will be in conversation with Richard Steinitz and Annette
Moreau about his own, Cage’s and the late David Tudor’s contributions
to Cunningham’s oeuvre. The next day the focus at 6pm is on three Charles
Atlas films including his and Cunningham’s stunning 1982 collaboration
Channels/Inserts, a dance made for the camera using chance methods. The
residency culminates Friday 20 September at 8pm, when Cunningham will
be in conversation with both Macaulay and British choreographer Richard
first appeared in Dance Umbrella News.
Donald Hutera writes regularly on dance and arts for The Times, Evening
Standard, Time Out, Dance Europe, Dance Magazine (US) and Dance Now. He
is co-author, with Allen Robertson, of The Dance Handbook.
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Edited by Jeff.
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