Saying goodbye to Merce Cunningham, and his company

The Merce Cunningham Dance Company will perform for the last time at the Walker Art Center this weekend. The company plans to disband at the end of December, two years after Cunningham died.

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Merce Cunningham Dance Company performing Minutiae (1954) against the backdrop of Rauschenberg’s work of the same name

Photo by Herb Migdall, 1976, courtesy Cunningham Dance Foundation

Meanwhile the Walker is launching a series of exhibitions of sets and costumes designed for Cunningham’s company by some of the great visual artists of the 20th century.

MPR’s Euan Kerr reports Cunningham was at the center of a dynamic arts scene from the start of his career.

Cunningham was working with Martha Graham and developing his own movement style based on rigorous discipline in combination with chance elements, such as like rolling dice or flipping coins to determine how a dance would play out.

His creative and life partner John Cage was to soon redefine musical composition. Others in the group, Robert Rauschenberg and Jasper Johns, were about to launch their own assaults on the visual arts world. Sage Cowles had a career dancing on Broadway and television before moving to Minneapolis to become a huge supporter of dance. The new Cowles Center is named for her and her husband John.

But this was before any of them were famous and it was only natural that they would share and collaborate. As Cunningham prepared a dance, Cage might write the music, and Rauschenberg, who became Cunningham’s stage manager, might design the costumes and sets.

Dance Works I: Merce Cunningham/Robert Rauschenberg runs through April 8, 2012 at the Walker Art Center. You can hear more about the exhibition and the collection by clicking on the link below:

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