Tuesday, July 28, 2009

The Dance Teacher

Merce Cunningham has died. He was 90 years old and he trained a couple of generations of dancers.

In an old article by Gus Solomons Jr. in Dance Magazine, Cunningham's approach to teaching dance is discussed:

Mary Lisa Burns, director of the Cunningham School and longtime teacher there, says, "Merce thinks of dancing as being an enlargement of everyday movement…”

So, the technique involves principles rather than just combinations. It teaches the dancer "how to do something," as he puts it, instead of teaching the dancer how to move like the teacher.

Even when he was still dancing, Merce would often explain instead of demonstrate a phrase. "Rather than show the movement, if you explain it, the students have to think it through differently."

Here is one of his creative collaborations with John Cage. This was 40 years ago. I am certain people thought they were out of their minds.

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