Merce Circus, Stratford Circus, London
Thursday 06 October 2011
Merce Cunningham, who died in 2009, was one of the great pioneers of 20th-century dance. This year's Dance Umbrella opens with a farewell to Cunningham, whose company will close after one last world tour – a final chance to see one of dance's great companies.
As well as more formal events at the Barbican, this last London season kicked off with Merce Circus, an interactive weekend at Stratford Circus. It was a mix of performance, study and 1960s happening, with events all over the building.
The centrepiece was a performance of the 1976 dance Squaregame. The stage was littered with duffel bags, which the dancers used as cushions or walls to hide behind. Sometimes the whole company plunged into activity, dashing about, breaking into trios and duets, milling back into a crowd.
A serene trio sent a wave of calm through the dance. Two men and one woman reached out and folded themselves up, shoulders undulating as their torsos swayed. Rashaun Mitchell danced a princely solo. He moved grandly through space, the carriage of his head and shoulders noble enough for any fairy tale ballet.
Mitchell came back for a wonderfully wobbly duet with Andrea Weber. They crouched to the floor and rose again, knees and ankles waggling. Cunningham was a mercurial choreographer, switching from elegance to vaudeville in a moment.
Weirdness is part of the Merce aesthetic. Dancers waddled with duffel bags held between their knees. At the very end, they grabbed the bags and rushed into a final group pose, as if ready to have their photograph taken.
After Squaregame, Merce Circus offered film screenings, a music concert and the chance to learn Cunningham's Field Dances. Created in 1963, it was inspired by the sight of children playing. It's a random dance, a group of steps to be performed according to chance patterns. A giggly bunch of school children, critics and dance fans went skipping through the steps.
It's simple enough to learn in a session, but the combinations are recognisably Cunningham. Set up to be as random as cloud patterns, they reflect his curiosity and invention, his distinctive view of life and people.
Merce Cunningham season at the Barbican runs until 8 October (0844 243 0757)
Is the comedy album making a comeback?comedy
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Disney heiress Abigail disowns her share of family profits in West Bank company
- 2 The secret report that helps Israel hide facts
- 3 'Women should not laugh in public,' says Turkey's Deputy Prime Minister in morality speech
- 4 Ebola virus: UK health officials issue warning to doctors as experts admit the outbreak 'is not under control'
- 5 Ross Burden dead: MasterChef and Ready Steady Cook star dies at age 45 after suffering from cancer
Best TV shows on Netflix: 26 series to binge on
Led Zeppelin to release alternative Stairway To Heaven after 43 years
Best movies on Netflix UK and US: 32 films that will end your endless scrolling
Freddie Prinze Jr on 24: 'Kiefer Sutherland was the most unprofessional dude in the world – I hated every moment of it'
Coolio has sold his soul to Pornhub
The secret report that helps Israel hide facts
A day in the life of Vladimir Putin: The dictator in his labyrinth
Woman and two children killed by mob in riots over 'blasphemous' Facebook post in Pakistan
Putin is 'thuggish, dishonest and reckless', says British ambassador to US
Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite – Britain as others see us
A new Russian revolution: The cracks are starting to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc
- < Previous
- Next >