Events like the weeklong 50th anniversary celebration of the
Merce Cunningham Dance Company remind us of the importance of the
arts and how, through dance, one man can influence people’s
perceptions of the world.

As a pioneer of modern dance, Cunningham’s ideas represent
a pivotal moment in 20th century art. Where previous choreographers
emphasized how music and dance relate to one another, Cunningham
presents movement and music that are independent of one another. In
fact, he often creates phrases where the movements themselves lack
sequence.

Through this unlikely combination, he achieves what dance prof.
Peter Sparling calls “a thrilling experience.” He
likens Merce’s select group of dancers to the best racehorses
in the world. “Their bodies are precision instruments. They
become graceful images on stage.” Sparling admits that these
pieces can be very disorienting for the uninitiated, but emphasizes
the extent to which they can open up one’s mind.

The weeklong series of lectures, presentations and dance lessons
for students will culminate with two performances at the Power
Center. The pieces scheduled for Friday night’s performances
include works from 1965 entitled, “How to Pass, Kick, Fall
and Run.” Cunningham will accompany the dancers with select
readings throughout the performance. The Saturday performance will
feature live music by the Kronos Quartet.

Company member Daniel Roberts comments that it can be
nerve-wracking to dance to music that is being performed
independent of the choreography. “You never know what will
happen in the background.” He hopes that the audience enjoys
the visual spectacle of animated dancers.

After attending a class, dance sophomore Leah Ives remarked that
she appreciated “seeing dance from another
perspective.” Dance and computer science freshman Rachel
Jakens plans on attending both performances. She recommends that if
you “go in there without expecting anything you will find
something that is really interesting that you haven’t seen
before.”

At the third annual “Dance on Camera Festival: Merce on
Camera,” dance sophomore Katie Zeitvogel noted the
interesting ways Merce used the camera to present his vision in
video format. She added “Whether you are a dance major or
not, it is amazing how much you can learn from going to his
show.”

Sparling said the event will “represent the best of the
university, because it can bring so many different minds
together.”

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