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Merce Cunningham left distinct impression with 2008 work in Minnesota

The work of choreographer Merce Cunningham, who died at age 90 in New York Sunday night, made him a larger-than-life figure in the dance world.

“He created a body of work that looks like none other — plotless, spacious and often leisurely paced works, characterized by the clarity, calm and coolness of the dancing,” wrote Sarah Kaufman in the Washington Post.

“But his achievement is not limited to style, subject matter, quantity of works (nearly 200) or even the extraordinary longevity of his world-renowned troupe in a field known for spotty funding and wavering public support,” she wrote. “Mr. Cunningham also invented radical working methods that exploded the mold and produced new ways of moving.

“Simply put, Mr. Cunningham expanded what is possible in dance. From his earliest works to his last, Mr. Cunningham flouted convention, embracing the unknown and the unpredictable. For example, in ‘eyeSpace’ (2006), the audience was loaned pre-loaded iPods and encouraged to shuffle the specially commissioned musical selections at will.”

Over the years Cunningham’s work became familiar to Twin Cities dance audiences; his company’s last visit, in September 2008, was especially memorable, featuring dance in a quarry near Waite Park, Minn.

“The extraordinary and improbable event?” wrote Jeff Severns Guntzel in MinnPost. “An in-the-round staging of a piece called ‘Ocean’ featuring Cunningham’s company of 14 dancers and 150 classically trained musicians.

“The exceedingly ambitious project is the product of a collaboration between the Merce Cunningham Dance Company, the Walker Art Center, the College of St. Benedict and Northrop Dance at the University of Minnesota.”

You can read the article about the performance of ‘Ocean’ here.

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