Obituary: Choreographer Merce Cunningham, 90

Posted on: July 27, 2009

Monday (7/27) on the New York Times blog Arts Beat, Alastair Macaulay writes, “Merce Cunningham, the American choreographer who was among a handful of 20th-century figures to make dance a major art and a major form of theater, died Sunday night. He was 90 and lived in Manhattan. Mr. Cunningham ranks with Isadora Duncan, Serge Diaghilev, Martha Graham and George Balanchine in making people rethink the essence of dance and choreography, posing a series of ‘But’ and ‘What if?’ questions over a career of nearly seven decades. He went on doing so almost to the last. … Close to the founding members of the so-called New York Schools of Music, Painting and Poetry, Mr. Cunningham himself, along with Jerome Robbins and the younger Paul Taylor, led the way to founding what can retrospectively be called the New York School of Dance. These choreographers both combined and rejected the rival influences of modern dance and ballet, notably the senior choreographers Martha Graham and George Balanchine. They absorbed aspects of ordinary pedestrian movement, the natural world and city life.” Cunningham was devoted to using contemporary music for his dances, most notably the scores of his professional and life partner of many years, the composer John Cage.

Posted July 27, 2009