Merce Cunningham Dance Company

Photographs of a Dance Movement

Hardly any other artist has influenced the international dance scene as much as the American choreographer and dancer Merce Cunningham (1919-2009) with his Dance Company. In close cooperation with visual artists, composers, philosophers and writers he developed an overall view of man and his movement vocabulary, which did not focus on the brilliant performance and virtuosity of a single individual, but on the decentralization of movement in space and the abstraction of narrative content. He is the "architect" of exactly predefined constellations which at the same time leaves maximum leeway for chance and improvisation, he is the author of exactly measured interspaces despite an unshakeable belief in spontaneous, individual forms of expression of his dancers. For his later productions he sometimes used computer-aided software to create conceptual diagrams aimed at exploring the physical potential of the human body.

The foundation of Merce Cunningham‘s Dance Company was fuelled by the artist‘s wish and need for dancers who did not (only) have a classical ballet training. Especially in his early productions, in which he actively participated as dancer, he offered his dancers the opportunity to discover an entirely new world and develop a new understanding of bodily movement, far away from any cliches of dance theatre repertoires. He also redefined the relationship between music and performance, movement and interpretation. For his performances he only chose new, contemporary musical pieces, frequently in collaboration with his friend and partner John Cage. He regarded dance as a form of art, which took place parallel to the musical performance and was not necessarily tied to the impressions of the music. This led to the development of his own school of dancing and choreography and his own theory and beliefs which manifested themselves in his frequent dance performances, both during numerous tours and at the grand old Westbeth Building in the Meatpacking District of Lower Manhattan, which housed Cunningham‘s Dance Company.

The exhibition of about 200 photographs presents a panorama of the varied dance productions of Merce Cunningham‘s Dance Company in a kind of picture mosaic, featuring works on loan from the German Dance Archive of the SK Cultural Foundation in Cologne, Germany, complemented by three individual photographic positions: James Klosty, the partner of Merce’s dance protagonist Carolyn Brown, accompanied the Company between 1968 and 1972, while Anna Finke worked as a young photographer in the Company‘s costume department and photographed his late productions between 2007 and the end of the Company in 2011. The world-famous dancer and choreographer Mikhail Baryshnikov photographed some of Cunningham‘s performances in 2006/2007: 11 large-format prints of his photographs capturing the dancers‘ movements are on display in the exhibition.

Tuesday - Sunday: 
10.00 am - 6.00 pm
10.00 am - 8.00 pm
Monday: closed