Merce as Merlin

Merce Cunningham, who passed away last week, was not just a leader in modern dance but also a force in how we think about, and create, art.

The legacy of his company, Merce Cunningham Dance Company, and his partnership with John Cage will include how we perceive chance encounters, capture movements’ possibilities, and celebrate the fun of experimentation and creation.

For a little inspiration, here are a few words to live by from Merce:

I’d rather find out something than repeat what I know. I prefer adventure to something that’s fixed.

In coming to a new piece, I still try to find ways to use chance. It is to try to open my eyes to something I don’t know about rather than me simply repeating something that I already have dealt with.

I don’t work through images or ideas. I work through the body.

Dance is an art in space and time. The object of the dancer is to obliterate that.

Too much technique makes for a robot; too much improvisation makes for a sloppy body.

There isn’t a story in the conventional sense. Each person could receive this in his or her own way, and not receive it in some way that I’ve decided for them ahead of time.

Live and work in every direction, so that whichever way you face is front.

You have to love dancing to stick to it. It gives you nothing back, no manuscripts to store away, no paintings to show on walls and maybe hang in museums, no poems to be printed and sold, nothing but that fleeting moment when you feel alive. It is not for unsteady souls.

The only way to do it is to do it.

Have friends both old and young.

Love surprises.

Laugh often.

The dances, the dancers, the works, and the words: Merce has left artists and audiences a genuine legacy of new visions. And, he and John Cage have left us with two of the best smiles in art — don’t you think?

- Bill Reichblum

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One Response to “Merce as Merlin”

  1. KadmusArts Culture News » Blog Archive » Memory of Merce
    October 31st, 2009 00:02

    [...] Los Angeles Times Merce as Merlin [...]

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