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July 27, 2009

Merce Cunningham 1909-2009

John Cage & Merce Cunningham

Kuru sent me what he said was his favorite Merce quotation:

"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 single fleeting moment when you feel alive. It is not for unsteady souls."
- Merce Cunningham

Thinking back, for myself, the strongest influence of Merce Cunningham on me was actually something that one of my teachers said about him. In those days (70s) my girl friends in modern dance though Merce was "the man", some hunky combination of native talent and rebellious imagination. And I believed that his collaborator John Cage's "Silence" was the trump card of 20th c. music -- if you were clever enough you got out of playing any music at all.

Then my teacher, who had his studio around the corner from Cunningham and Cage in NYC, pulled me up short. "Everybody thinks it's just raw talent or a new idea that makes people like that famous. It's not that. It's their work. Those guys have their noses to the grindstone from early morning to late at night seven days a week. They are workers. That is what they are about."

That was when I came to understand that artistic productivity is work. Steady, disciplined labor. And that you can be proud to call it your job.

  • Merce Cunningham - Telegraph

  • Merce Cunningham News - The New York Times

    Posted by joegrohens at July 27, 2009 06:47 PM


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