NEW YORK, NY.- Merce Cunningham, one of the most influential artists of our time, will celebrate his 90th birthday on Thursday, April 16. Cunningham has been at the forefront of the American avant-garde for more than 60 years. His collaborations with artistic innovators across disciplinesincluding Robert Rauschenberg, John Cage, and Radioheadhave yielded an unparalleled body of contemporary movement, music, and visual art. An active choreographer at 90, Cunningham continues to mentor artists around the world and to create new work guided by the fundamental principles of experimentation and chance.
Cunninghams latest work, Nearly Ninety, which premieres on his birthday this Thursday at the Brooklyn Academy of Music, reflects his ongoing commitment to innovation and collaboration. Alongside the over 150 choreographic works and 800 site-specific Events that Cunningham has created to date, this new work stands as testament to his creative spirit and extraordinary vision. Milestones from Cunninghams career include the following:
Cunningham began his professional modern dance career in 1939, at the age of 20, with a six-year tenure as soloist in the Martha Graham Dance Company.
In 1944, Cunningham presented his first solo performance with his lifelong partner and collaborator, John Cage. In the course of their work together, the two explored the decoupling of music and dance, and the use of chance procedures in creating works of art.
Cunningham formed the Merce Cunningham Dance Company in the summer of 1953. The original Company included Carolyn Brown, Viola Farber, Paul Taylor, and Remy Charlip.
Robert Rauschenberg served as the Companys first Artistic Director, and the décors he created for MCDCs early performances informed his groundbreaking combines. Jasper Johns became the Companys Artistic Adviser in 1967.
Cunningham helped develop the revolutionary software program DanceForms to use in his choreography in 1991.
During the 20022003 season, MCDC celebrated its 50th anniversary by presenting Split Sides, a new work with music by Radiohead and Sigur Rós.
Cunningham launched the webcast series Mondays with Merce in early 2009, offering audiences unprecedented access to his studio and creative process (www.merce.org/mondayswithmerce.html).
On April 16, 2009, Cunninghams 90th birthday, MCDC will debut Cunninghams newest work, Nearly Ninety, at the Brooklyn Academy of Music. The evening-length piece features new music commissioned from and performed Led Zeppelins legendary multi-instrumentalist John Paul Jones, mixed-media sound composer Takehisa Kosugi, and indie rock band Sonic Youth, as well as multi-level structural décor by architect Benedetta Tagliabue and costumes by acclaimed Italian fashion designer Romeo Gigli. Following the premiere, Nearly Ninety will be presented in Madrid, London, Paris, Berkeley, California, and Urbana-Champaign, Illinois.