Merce Cunningham (1919-2009)

In the spring of 1981, during a residency at the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis, Minnesota, choreographer Merce Cunningham and composer John Cage sat down to discuss their work and artistic process. As frequent collaborators, Cage and Cunningham pioneered a new framework of performance. Their novel approach allowed for mediums to exist independently, or rather cohabitate, within a performance, thus abandoning the co-dependent model of dance and music. Cage and Cunningham go on to discuss the methodology and motivations behind chance operations, a term used to describe artistic decisions based on unpredictability. Wanting to free himself of his likes and dislikes, Cage describes how Zen Buddhism influenced his work, leading him to use tools of chance. These new methods, adopted by both Cunningham and Cage, overturned a whole foundation of thought around music, movement, and the process of creating art.


Martin Chaix – „We were right here!!“ (Premiere tonight)


The title of the first choreography by Martin Chaix for Ballett am Rhein takes us straight into the ballet studio. On the day of his arrival in Düsseldorf in the autumn of 2009 the dancer and choreographer discovered on the wall of the ballet room the written words. “we were right here!! at the right time”. In the concept of the piece Martin Chaix tells how he stands to the words, which gave him repeated food for thought, whether lurking behind something or catching his eye directly. A reflection based on the localization and apprehension of an anchorage in here and now, making a reference back to the past and a perspective forward to the future from this anchorage. An attempt at the theme of the omnipresence of change and, now fearful and now joyful, our dealings with it.

The aspect of change and the question of self-localization also brought Martin Chaix to Alfred Schnittke and his concerto for choir, the first movement of which supplies him with the music for his world première. Schnittke as a strayer among religions and cultures, a searcher for his own identity, seemed to him the ideal musical counterpart. Besides, the immediacy of choir singing, which is made of tones produced solely by the human body, suggested to Martin Chaix an affinity with dance, which “presupposes the presence of the human body, the mere fact of being there”.

French-born Martin Chaix was trained at the ballet school of the Opéra National de Paris and after his studies joined the ensemble there under Brigitte Lefèvre. In 2006 he moved to the Leipzig ballet as soloist under Paul Chalmer. His first choreographies were for the Pariser opera in 2006, and for Leipzig there followed in 2007 “Lady”, “Lob der Tränen” (in praise of tears), “Und so weiter …” (and so on) and then in 2010 for the Noverre Society in Stuttgart “Voices”. He has been a member of Ballett am Rhein since 2009.

“WE WERE RIGHT HERE” (World Première)
Martin Chaix

1st movement of the concerto for choir by Alfred Schnittke


John Cage: Song and Dance


Michael Tilson Thomas, conductor
Joan La Barbara, vocalist
Meredith Monk, vocalist
Jessye Norman, soprano
Marc-André Hamelin, piano
Yuval Sharon, director
Jesse Stiles, electronics
Brandon Collwes, dancer
Andrea Weber, dancer

Solo dancers from Merce Cunningham’s celebrated company perform the lead roles in a new realization of Second Hand, a major collaboration of Cage and Cunningham based on music by Erik Satie. Cage used I-Ching chance operations to deconstruct Satie’s music and reform it into a Dada-esque musical coloring book, asking such questions as: “Of those orchestra instruments that easily play all the notes of the phrase, how many and which actually do?”

MTT, Joan La Barbara, Meredith Monk, Jessye Norman, Marc-André Hamelin and NWS musicians join forces for a multimedia production of Cage’s mind-bending and provocative Song Books. With texts by Henry David Thoreau, Marcel Duchamp, Erik Satie and others, each of the work’s solos explores the boundaries of song, live electronics and theater.


Comme des Garçons founder Rei Kawakubo costumes for Merce Cunningham’s 1997 dance Scenario

Focusing on the extraordinary costumes that Comme des Garçons founder Rei Kawakubo created for Merce Cunningham’s 1997 dance Scenario, this exhibition explores the collaboration between the Japanese fashion designer and the legendary choreographer. The show is the third in a series showcasing the Walker’s Merce Cunningham Dance Company Collection—the single largest acquisition of visual art in the Walker’s history. [Source]





Walker Art Center
1750 Hennepin Avenue
Minneapolis, MN 55403

Merce Cunningham – Septet (1964)

”Septet,” on a program with ”Doubles” (danced a bit somnolently) and ”Pictures,” proved as delightful as it was revealing, historically. It is not a major work, but it has a clarity of movement that matches the clarity of sound so important to Satie. Mr. Cunningham has since created more complex and sophisticated pieces. Never, however, has he been so pure. ”Septet” is a rarity in the Cunnigham canon. It will surprise a great many people. It is reportedly the last piece Mr. Cunningham choreographed along traditional lines before he embarked upon the regular use of chance procedures as a compositional device. It is also set to ”real” music rather than the controversial sound scores now common in the Cunningham troupe. [Source]