Our MCA Stage season began a few weeks ago so we asked a few MCA Box Office staff which MCA Stage performance(s) they are most looking forward to attending.
It is so hard to choose! Each performance has such a unique and exciting take, whether it’s feeling the energy of the Dorrance dancers, grooving to Burnt Sugar, or becoming enamored with a tiny coal-mining puppet in Chiflón. But if I had to pick one, it’s got to be Tesseract. Between the set design, use of film, and live performance, I can’t wait to see how they shake up the viewers experience of bodies in motion.
About ten years ago I was working in the MCA's Box Office when Merce Cunningham came to visit the museum. Frail, with silvery curls and smart puppy-dog eyes, Merce radiated charisma. I was star-struck and giddy and can you blame me? Merce was one of the premier choreographers of the 20th century and, as it turns out, a sweet guy. I immediately abandoned my post (don’t tell my boss) and took Merce up to see a John Cage artwork in one of our galleries. (John Cage was Merce’s partner in life and art.) Then I strongly urged him to take a ticket to Reggie Harris's sold out Puremovement being performed in our theater that afternoon. Merce gamely agreed to watch the performance and afterwards came out to thank me saying, “Well that was quite wonderful!” I swooned.
Seeing the choreography of Merce Cunningham changed my entire concept of what dance could be: dance could be a chance operation just as much as it could be a rehearsed and scripted movement. Instead of choreographing to music, Merce’s dances work around and against music in a way I find equal parts liberating and irritating. I’m hardwired to expect humans to dance in synchronicity with sound, and Merce’s art shakes up my expectations. After experiencing his work I began seeing everyday activities as dance and the sounds of the city as a kind of a reverse soundtrack.
This coming spring you’ll have the extraordinary opportunity to experience the artistry of Merce Cunningham in the MCA's galleries and on the stage. With the upcoming lineup I find I can’t recommend just one. Instead, I encourage you to see every Merce-influenced program.
Whether you’re a dance junkie, an art lover, or a music nerd, Merce will surely make you swoon, too.
MCA Cunningham Event
Merce was known for his works in unexpected places like museums and galleries. In the spirit of this tradition, the MCA presents two dance events using Merce’s choreography in the museum’s fourth-floor lobby. This may be the only chance to see Merce’s site-specific work performed by his company-trained dancers, so don’t miss it.
Pro-tip: These are free with museum admission and likely to be quite popular—get there early.
CCN–Ballet de Lorraine Works by Merce Cunningham & others
This fine French company is led by a former dancer and choreographer from Merce Cunningham Dance Company. They’ll be performing a landmark Merce piece called SOUNDDANCE, which is just the right piece to watch if you want to have to your expectations of dance and music challenged.
Pro-tip: This one’s selling super fast, so please don’t come crying to the Box Office when it’s sold out.
Music for Merce
Here’s a cool thing about Merce Cunningham—he collaborated with all the best artists and musicians. Merce’s most frequent collaborator was his life partner John Cage. Love 20th-century experimental music? Then this is your show.
Pro-tip: Bring your music nerd friend as a date.
Spektral Quartet Morton Feldman: String Quartet No. 2
One-time Merce Cunningham composer Morton Feldman’s String Quartet #2 pushes the limits of music and attention into the realm of trance (and even boredom). This epic six-hour-long performance in the fourth-floor galleries will give you plenty of room to dive in and out of the music experience as your attention span allows.
Pro-tip: You can enter and leave the performance whenever you wish, so don’t worry about not getting that all-important bathroom and snack break.
Charles Atlas / Rashaun Mitchell / Silas Riener Tesseract
The legacy of Merce’s innovation lives on in Tesseract, a dance production which brings dance into a queer space-time continuum, including 3D film.
Pro-tip: This show is visually lush and the most accessible Merce program so bring a newly hatched dance fan as a date.
Matti on the exhibition
Not quite convinced or in need of more Merce? I’ve got homework for you: come February, make sure to see the exhibition, Merce Cunningham: Common Time. Common Time is an homage to Merce’s legacy and is sure to wow you with all the top notch artists he collaborated with (Frank Stella, Robert Rauschenberg, Jasper Johns—even Radiohead).