MINNEAPOLIS, March 9, 2017— Revolutionary artists Merce Cunningham and his partner and collaborator John Cage radically remade dance and music over six decades, transforming our perception of the world. As part of the exhibition
Merce Cunningham: Common Time—the largest survey of his work yet mounted—Cunningham-connected movement and music performances and workshops will span the Walker’s stages, galleries, and public spaces. The Walker presents Merce Cunningham Across Media (April 5–8), a four-day series explores the profound effects of his work in the fields of dance, music, moving image, and visual art.
Merce Cunningham: Common Time, an extensive interdisciplinary exhibition, features live dance and music in the theater as well as the galleries, including stagings of Cunningham’s choreography by dancers from the final company and new dance commissions in his spirit. These new works include pieces by Charles Atlas/Rashaun Mitchell/Silas Riener, Beth Gill, and Maria Hassabi—all of whom, like Cunningham before them, make individualistic forms of rigorously abstract movement art propelling today’s dance forward.
The Walker’s Merce Cunningham Dance Company Collection forms the backbone of the Walker-organized exhibition, exploring the lasting impact of one of America’s most important figures in contemporary art. Merce Cunningham: Common Time is on view through July 30.
Merce Cunningham: Common Time Performance Calendar
Charles Atlas /Rashaun Mitchell /Silas Riener
Thursday–Saturday, March 16–18, 8 pm
William and Nadine McGuire Theater
$28 ($22.40 Walker members)
“A venture this artistically successful should be seen as a valediction to that part of their careers (with Cunningham) of these two supremely talented men.” —New York Times
Rashaun Mitchell and Silas Riener were two of the most stunning performers in the final iteration of the Merce Cunningham Dance Company. In a groundbreaking co-commission with Experimental and Performing Arts Center (EMPAC), the Walker pairs them with longtime Cunningham collaborator and visual/media artist Charles Atlas. The thrilling result is a live dance/technology hybrid featuring seven dancers and 3-D video that weaves together dance, sci-fi narratives, and live film segments (edited in real time by Atlas). Toggling between the corporeal and the digital, this revolutionary work disorients one’s sense of space and time in playful and unpredictable ways.
Tesseract ◻ (film) was commissioned and produced by EMPAC/ Experimental Media and Performing Arts Center at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and co-commissioned by Triangle France.
Tesseract ⚪ (live performance) was co-commissioned by the Experimental Media and Performing Arts Center EMPAC/ at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, the Walker Art Center, the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, and On the Boards.
Tesseract was made possible by the New England Foundation for the Arts’ National Dance Project, with lead funding from the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation and The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. Tesseract was developed, in part, through residencies at EMPAC/ Experimental Media and Performing Arts Center at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and The Watermill Center.
Brand New Sidewalk
World Premiere/Walker Commission
Friday–Saturday, May 5–6, 8 pm
William and Nadine McGuire Theater
$22 ($17.60 Walker members)
“It’s difficult to convey in words how Gill’s work is both crystalline and earthy, spare, yet complex.” —ArtsJournal
Known for her exacting rigor and mesmerizing precision, Bessie Award–winner Beth Gill makes choreography that is spare yet playful, stark yet beautiful. In Brand New Sidewalk, Gill teams up with composer Jon Moniaci and lighting designer Thomas Dunn to create a sparse and elegant diptych born of questioning the value of formalism in dance. This evocative new piece for four dancers explores themes of alienation, erasure, and power, illuminating the compositional pleasure of the Merce Cunningham legacy while refracting it for our times through Gill’s unique lens.
Brand New Sidewalk is a National Performance Network (NPN) Creation Fund project created in partnership with the Walker Art Center, The Yard, American Dance Festival, and NPN. Support is provided by Producers’ Council members King’s Fountain/Barbara Watson Pillsbury and Henry Pillsbury.
Walker Cunningham Events
The gallery comes alive with movement and sound as dancers from the final Merce Cunningham Dance Company (MCDC)¬¬—Dylan Crossman, Silas Riener, Jamie Scott, Melissa Toogood—perform Events, Cunningham’s unique choreographic form made for performances in unconventional spaces. Arranged and staged by former MCDC dancer Andrea Weber, these 30-minute sequences drawn from four decades of Cunningham’s work offer a rare chance to experience firsthand his signature explorations of space, time, and movement. Twin Cities musicians will perform their own compositions to accompany each program, based on John Cage’s improvisational parameters for Cunningham Events. Capacity is limited and available on a first-come, first-served basis.
Merce Cunningham’s choreography is performed courtesy the Merce Cunningham Trust.
Events Performance Schedule
March 30–April 2 and April 6–9
Thursday, 5:30 and 8 pm
Friday–Sunday, 1:30 and 4 pm
Lineup of Musicians
Thursday, March 30: John Keston/Graham O’Brien
Friday, March 31: Douglas Ewart/Laura Harada
Saturday, April 1: Michelle Kinney/Cole Pulice/Eric Jensen
Sunday, April 2: Joe Strachan/Noah Ophoven-Baldwin
Thursday, April 6: Toby Ramaswamy/Adam Zahller
Friday, April 7: Tara Loeper/Patrick Marschke
Saturday, April 8: Davu Seru/Jeremy Ylvisaker
Sunday, April 9: Cody McKinney/Leah Ottman
Free First Saturday
On the Move
Saturday, April 1
10 am–3 pm Free
Dance performances: 11 am and 1 pm
Explore the exhibition Merce Cunningham: Common Time with art-making, workshops, films, and performances by Young Dance.
Saturday, June 3, 11:30am, 1:30pm, 4:30pm
Minneapolis Sculpture Garden
To celebrate Merce Cunningham: Common Time, Patricia Lent and Jamie Scott, both former members of the Merce Cunningham Dance Company, will conduct movement workshops for community dancers culminating in outdoor public showings of Merce Cunningham’s Field Dances (1963). Subtitled “Dances for Everyone,” this indeterminate work utilizes everyday movement designed for people of all ages and with any level of dance training or experience. The outdoor showings will be presented during the re-opening festivities of the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden.
Target Free Thursday Nights Related Programs
Dance Speak: Common Time
Join a tour with members of the Twin Cities dance community or a former Merce Cunningham Dance Company member to experience movement-based approaches to the exhibition Merce Cunningham: Common Time.
Thursday, March 23, 5:30 pm: Linda Shapiro and Sam Johnson
Thursday, March 30, 6:30 pm: Andrea Weber and Anat Shinar
Saturday, April 1, 2:00pm: Megan Mayer and Berit Ahlgren
Thursday, March 9, 6:30pm
Mediatheque screening of Locale and Channels/Inserts with artist Charles Atlas in person.
Art School: Dance
Sunday, April 2, 2 pm
$5 (free for Contributing members)
Join dancer Andrea Weber for an intimate discussion of what it was like to perform with the Merce Cunningham Dance Company. On a walk-through of the exhibition Merce Cunningham: Common Time, find out what an “Event” is, explore ways that Cunningham employed chance procedures, and examine the influence his innovative philosophies have had on American modern dance.
This event is Part of Merce Cunningham: Common Time, Art School: What the %#@! Is Contemporary Art?
About the Artist
A dancer with the Merce Cunningham Dance Company from 2004 to 2011, Andrea Weber performed roles in more than 25 of Cunningham’s choreographic works. Weber is on faculty of the Merce Cunningham Trust, teaching Cunningham Technique® at New York City Center and the Joffrey Ballet Trainee Program. She has also taught at SUNY Purchase, Brown University, Skidmore College, the American Dance Festival, ArcDanz Festival, NYU Tisch, ABT Studio Company, Salem State College, and Dance New Amsterdam.
Weber has staged Pond Way for Ballett am Rhein and Ballet Vlaanderen, Suite for Five for the CNSMD in Lyon, RainForest for the Stephen Petronio Company, and Sounddance at UNCSA. She has also danced with Coleman & Lemieux Compagnie, Dance Heginbotham, Jessica Lang Dance, Cornfield Dance, Jonah Bokaer, and Charlotte Griffin.
Common Time: Dance Workshops
Join former Merce Cunningham Dance Company (MCDC) members in the Walker’s McGuire Theater for a series of workshops that explore Cunningham dance technique and practice. Choose one or both sessions. Classes are limited to 30 participants.
Movement in Time and Space: An Introduction to Cunningham Technique®
Tuesday, April 4, 2 pm
William and Nadine McGuire Theater
$15 ($12 Walker members); both workshops: $25 ($20)
This class introduces the technique developed by Merce Cunningham to train dancers for his company. The session begins with a warm-up designed to promote rhythmic accuracy, clarity of form, and spatial acuity. Participants will then learn diverse movement phrases drawn from Cunningham’s choreography. For intermediate/advanced levels. Taught by former MCDC member Andrea Weber.
Using Chance: An Introduction to Chance Procedures as Used in the Work of Merce Cunningham
Tuesday, April 4, 6 pm
William and Nadine McGuire Theater
$15 ($12 Walker members); both workshops: $25 ($20)
This workshop introduces Merce Cunningham’s use of chance procedures as a choreographic tool. Participants learn to use chance operations to invent their own movement phrase and to manipulate that phrase in time and space. At the conclusion of the session, participants will discuss the impact of this approach on their own creative process. Open to all levels of experience. Taught by former MCDC member Dylan Crossman.
Series: Merce Cunningham Across Media
Wednesday–Saturday, April 5 – April 8
Renowned as both choreographer and dancer, Merce Cunningham (1919–2009) revolutionized dance through his partnerships with dozens of artists who created costumes, lighting, films, music, and décor for his choreographic works. This four-day series explores the profound effects of his work in the fields of dance, music, moving image, and visual art. All programs are free and open to the public.
Merce Cunningham Across Media is made possible by the Robert Rauschenberg Foundation. Major support to preserve, digitize, and present the Ruben/Bentson Moving Image Collection is generously provided by the Bentson Foundation.
Living Dance Dialogue
Wednesday, April 5, 7 pm
Free; tickets available at the lobby desk from 6 pm
For nearly sixty years, the Merce Cunningham Dance Company was synonymous with challenging technique and dedicated training. The deep bonds and relationships fostered by working, training and traveling together were integral not only to Cunningham’s unique choreographic approach but also to the supportive structure that several company members continued in their own practices as choreographers. Former Merce Cunningham Dance Company members Patricia Lent, Silas Riener, and Andrea Weber share their experiences in this conversation. Moderated by Bonnie Brooks, associate professor of dance at Columbia College, Chicago.
Talking Dance is presented as part of the Gertrude Lippincott Talking Dance Series, made possible by generous support from Judith Brin Ingber.
Composed: Exploring Events
Thursday, April 6, 6:30 pm
Garden Terrace Room
During a few select evenings and afternoons in March and April, former Cunningham dancers will perform Events in collaboration with musicians in the Perlman Gallery at the Walker. Like for Cunningham’s dances, these sequences of existing choreographic excerpts are united with the music for the first time only during performance. Each Event features a different combination of musicians, and each Event creates a different performance – a world premiere composition at each Event. Although different compositions, each Event has the same musical structure and the musicians follow the same rules to create these unique performances.
Learn about this unique musical structure at Composed: Exploring Events, as musicians John Keston and Cody McKinney perform an excerpt of an Event, and discuss the history and context of Events with program curator Michelle Kinney and University of Minnesota musicologist Michael Gallope.
Observe, ask questions, engage, and experience the Events in this evening celebrating the musical impact of John Cage and his collaboration with Merce Cunningham. Don’t forget to experience the live performance of the Events in Perlman Gallery immediately prior to and following this short lecture/demonstration in the Garden Terrace Room. Events in the gallery will be performed at 5:30pm and 8pm on Thursday, April 6.
Check out the Walker Library to peruse archival documentation of the Events at the Walker from several historical performances by artists including John Cage, Takehisa Kosugi, Gordon Mumma and David Tudor.
Cash Bar located in Garden Terrace Room.
The Body and Expanded Cinema
Friday, April 7, 7:30 pm
Free; tickets available at the lobby desk from 6:30 pm
Visionary choreographer Merce Cunningham’s (1919-2009) dedication to pursing the use of new technologies through his practice made him a central figure not only in the development of new forms of dance making but also within a community of artists who used the projected image as a mode of performance and artistic practice. This screening program offers a deeper dive into the world of Stan VanDerBeek’s “expanded cinema” and Cunningham’s “media dances” with a screening of avant-garde films related to Cunningham’s work with technology. The program includes Elaine Summers’ Judson Fragments, made as a visual décor for her mixed-media choreographic work Fantastic Gardens performed at Judson Dance Theater in 1964, and Stan VanDerBeek and Nam June Paik’s Untitled (Experiments with Cunningham’s Variations V) (1965).
A post-screening conversation follows between Gloria Sutton, professor of art history and media studies at Northeastern University, and John Kim, professor of media and cultural studies at Macalester College.
Creating in Common Time
Saturday, April 8, 2 pm
Free; tickets available at the lobby desk from 1 pm
During his 70-year career, Merce Cunningham commissioned designs for costumes and décor from more than 50 visual artists, whose work with MCDC often had a profound impact on their independent practices. On this panel, three historians explore work by some of those artists. Art historian Juliet Bellow will discuss the relationship between the dancers and the décor inCunningham’s partnership with Andy Warhol and Isamu Noguchi; dance historian Roger Copeland will discuss Robert Rauschenberg’s decade of work as Cunningham’s artistic director; and art historian Liz Kotz will present her research on Robert Morris’s unique blend of sculpture and choreography through an analysis of his design for Cunningham’s Canfield (1969). Moderated by Common Time co-curator Joan Rothfuss.
Merce Cunningham Across Media Participant Bios
Juliet Bellow is an associate professor of art history at American University in Washington, DC. Her publications include the book Modernism on Stage: The Ballets Russes and the Parisian Avant-Garde (2013) and contributions to The Cambridge Companion to Ballet, The Modernist World, Art Journal, American Art, Dance Research Journal, and The New Republic. She served as a consulting scholar for the 2013 exhibition Diaghilev and the Ballets Russes, 1909–1929: When Art Danced with Music at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C. She is currently at work on a book entitled Auguste Rodin’s Dancers: Moving Toward the Limits of Sculpture. Her essay appears in the catalogue Merce Cunningham: Common Time.
Bonnie Brooks is an associate professor of dance and director of the Dance Center’s nationally acclaimed Dance Presenting Series. A writer, educator, and arts advocate with an extensive background in administration and production, she has taught contemporary dance issues and practice at UCLA and has held leadership positions at Dance/USA, Minnesota Dance Alliance, and the Chicago Dancemakers Forum. She has published widely on contemporary dance, and in 2011 she traveled with the Merce Cunningham Dance Company to document its final tour for the publication Legacy Plan: A Case Study (2013).
Roger Copeland is a professor of theater and dance at Oberlin College. He has also held visiting appointments at Yale, Wesleyan, Colorado College, the Laban Centre in London, and the University of Auckland in New Zealand. His books include Merce Cunningham: The Modernizing of Modern Dance and What Is Dance? He has published more than two hundred articles about dance, theater, and film in the New York Times, the New Republic, the Village Voice, Dance Theatre Journal, Partisan Review, Film Comment, Performing Arts Journal, American Theatre, the Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism, and the Routledge Encyclopedia of Modernism. His essay “Dancing for the Digital Age: Cunningham’s BIPED” appears in the catalogue Merce Cunningham: Common Time.
Michael Gallope is an assistant professor in the department of Cultural Studies and Comparative Literature at the University of Minnesota. As a practicing musician, he has worked in a variety of genres from avant-garde composition, experimental music, and free improvisation to rock music and electronic dance music. He currently plays with Minneapolis drone band IE. As a theorist, his research draws together music, philosophy, critical theory, and modernism. His book Deep Refrains: Music, Philosophy, and the Ineffable (Forthcoming 2017, University of Chicago Press), forges a cross-disciplinary analysis of writings on music by Arthur Schopenhauer, Friedrich Nietzsche, Ernst Bloch, Theodor Adorno, Vladimir Jankélévitch, Gilles Deleuze, and Félix Guattari. He is at work on a second book, Strange Inscriptions: The Ineffable Avant-Garde, which focuses on interpretive approaches to music of the 1960s and 70s avant-garde.
John Keston is a composer, sound artist, and developer who connects musicians to each other and their audience through the insertion of a mediating layer that embraces the chaotic ambiguities of environmental and sensorial influences. His music often activates what remains immutable within traditional forms of notation. He has performed and/or exhibited at Northern Spark, the Weisman Art Museum, the Montreal Jazz Festival, the Burnet Gallery, Walker’s Point Center for the Arts, the Minnesota Institute of Art, the In/Out Festival of Digital Performance, the Eyeo Festival, INST-INT, Echofluxx, and Moogfest.
John Kim is an associate professor of Media and Cultural Studies at Macalester College in Saint Paul. He has formerly taught at the University of San Francisco, Stanford University, and Williams College. A theorist and practitioner of new media, he has published widely in journals and other print publications, and exhibited interactive works in galleries and festivals around the world, including MassMOCA, DiaCenter for the Arts, and Northern Spark. His latest book, Rupture of the Virtual was published with Beyond Repair in 2016. With his art design group, Futures North, Kim was commissioned to build a public art piece for the new Saint Paul Saints stadium in Lowertown, St. Paul, MN. Before returning to teaching, Kim also worked as a programmer and designer at a handful of Internet startups. He is currently working on a book project on Nam June Paik.
Michelle Kinney is a dedicated and lifelong improviser and composer, working in nontraditional contexts. She finds much inspiration in cross-cultural and cross-genre collaborations. As Musician in Residence at the University of Minnesota’s Dance Program, she mines the music and kinesthetic information revealed by the body in motion, while accompanying classes with her cello, using a looping station and electronics. She has created several scores for dance, theater, and film, and performs frequently with many collaborative original music ensembles.
Liz Kotz has taught at UC Riverside since 2007. She is the author of Words to Be Looked At: Language in 1960s Art (MIT Press, 2007), which traces the proliferation of language as a material across experimental practices in music, performance and the visual arts. Drawing on more than two decades of research on 1960s avant-gardes, Kotz is completing a book on the emergence of interdisciplinary artmaking, through an examination of An Anthology of Chance Operations, the influential collection of scores, poems, drawings, and manifestos assembled by the composer La Monte Young in 1961 (and published in 1963). Other recent/forthcoming essays discuss the landmark Dwan Language shows of 1967-1970, the 1972 gallery exhibition Memory by the poet Bernadette Mayer, and the poetry of the sculptor Carl Andre. She also publishes widely on the work of contemporary artists, including Amy Adler, Lutz Bacher, Madison Brookshire, Richard Hawkins, Evan Holloway, Zoe Leonard, among others. Her recent graduate seminars have examined Los Angeles Art of the 1970s, Post-WWII Painting, and Art After the Object.
Patricia Lent danced for the Merce Cunningham Dance Company (1984-1993) and White Oak Dance Project (1994-1996), and then taught elementary school at P.S. 234 in Lower Manhattan (1998-2007). Lent began teaching technique and repertory workshops at the Merce Cunningham Studio in the late 1980s. In recent years, she has staged Cunningham’s work for numerous schools and companies, including Fabrications for Ballet de Lorraine, Scramble for Repertory Dance Theater, Duets for American Ballet Theatre, Channels/Inserts for Lyon Opera Ballet, Change of Address for North Carolina School of the Arts, and Roaratorio for MCDC’s Legacy Tour. In 2009, Lent was named a trustee of the Merce Cunningham Trust, and currently serves as the Trust’s Director of Licensing. Since joining the Trust, she has initiated and supervised close to one hundred staging projects for professional companies, museums, conservatories, and schools. Lent continues to teach, stage, and conduct workshops in her capacity at the Trust.
Cody McKinney is a bassist, composer, improviser, and sound artist currently residing in the Twin Cities. He has been actively composing, recording, and performing since the mid-1990s. He studied jazz and improvisation at the Berklee College of Music in Boston and, later, composition and process conceptualization at the New School in New York. His work straddles “a haunted space somewhere between free jazz and musique concrète,” with hallmarks that include his “liquid mastery of rhythm” and his use of graphic and text scores with indeterminacy and fixed time. Some of McKinney’s recent works have been recorded by his contemporary trio, Bloodline.
Silas Riener graduated from Princeton University in 2006 with a degree in Comparative Literature and certificates in Creative Writing and Dance, with a focus on linguistics. As a dancer he has worked with Chantal Yzermans, Takehiro Ueyama, Christopher Williams, Joanne Kotze, Jonah Baker, Rebecca Lazier, Tere O’Connor, Wally Cardona, and Kota Yamazaki. Riener was a member of the Merce Cunningham Dance Company from November 2007 until its closure at the end of 2011, and received a 2012 New York Dance and Performance Aware (Bessie) for his solo performance in Cunningham’s Split Sides. While performing with MCDC, Riener completed his MFA in Dance at NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts Atelier in 2012/2013. He has an ongoing collaboration with sculptor Martha Friedman and has collaborated with choreographer Rashaun Mitchell since 2010. His work has also been curated at EMPAC, The Serpentine Gallery Park Nights, Danspace Project, Architecture OMI, CATCH, LMCC’s River to River Festival, The Chocolate Factory, the BFI Gallery and the Walker Art Center.
Joan Rothfuss is an adjunct curator at the Walker Art Center, where she worked from 1988 to 2006 as a curator, organizing exhibitions on Joseph Beuys, Bruce Conner, Fluxus, Jasper Johns, and Yoko Ono, among many others. She holds an M.A. in art history from the University of Minnesota, and is the author of Topless Cellist: The Improbable Life of Charlotte Moorman (2014). She served as editor and author for the Walker’s monograph Eiko & Koma: Time Is Not Even, Space Is Not Empty (2011). Her research has been supported by grants from the Andy Warhol Foundation Arts Writers Grant Program, the Dedalus Foundation, the Getty Grant Program, the Minnesota State Arts Board and others.
Gloria Sutton is an Assistant Professor of Contemporary Art History and New Media at Northeastern University and author of The Experience Machine: Stan VanDerBeek’s Movie-Drome and Expanded Cinema (MIT Press, 2015). Her scholarship also appears in Mainframe Experimentalism: Early Digital Computing and the Experimental Arts (University of California Press, 2012) and Future Cinema: The Cinematic Imaginary after Film (MIT Press, 2003); she also edited the first study of the photographic and sculptural work of Sara VanDerBeek (Hatje Cantz, 2016). Her current book project, Pattern Recognition: Conditions of Contemporary Art provides a critical analysis of the rise of network culture within visual art, organized around the work of artists whose own practices contend with the transmission of ideas, power, and history through a focus on duration. Sutton received her PhD from the University of California Los Angeles and has been a fellow at both the Whitney Museum Independent Study Program and the Getty Research Institute. She is the inaugural editor of Art Journal Open.
Merce Cunningham: Common Time is organized by the Walker Art Center. Lead support for the project is provided by the Barnett and Annalee Newman Foundation and the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts. Generous support is also provided by Agnes Gund and the Roy Lichtenstein Foundation.
Major support for the Walker’s commissions and presentation is provided by the William and Nadine McGuire Commissioning Fund, the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, and the National Endowment for the Arts. This activity is made possible by the voters of Minnesota through a grant from the Minnesota State Arts Board, thanks to a legislative appropriation from the arts and cultural heritage fund.
Additional support is generously provided by Molly Davies, the Goodale Family Foundation, the HRK Foundation, Pamela and C. Richard Kramlich, the McKnight Foundation, Leni and David Moore, Jr./The David and Leni Moore Family Foundation, Linda and Larry Perlman, Barbara Pine, the Robert Rauschenberg Foundation, and the Unity Avenue Foundation in memory of Sage and John Cowles. Media partner Mpls.St.Paul Magazine.