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October 18, 2019

By: Georgia McBride Agerton

The website managed by the Merce Cunningham Trust,, offers some fascinating insight into the way Merce Cunningham created. For example, of his willingness to take chances with choreography, the site explains the following:

One of Merce Cunningham’s most influential strategies was his use of chance and randomness as a creative tool. Cunningham would often flip coins, roll dice, or even consult the I-Ching to guide the way he structured his choreography. This strategy, also favored by John Cage, challenged traditional notions of storytelling in dance. Cunningham described randomness as a way to free his imagination from its own clichés, counterbalancing his own rigorous creative process with unexpected moments of wonder.

The site goes on to explain how Cunningham approached collaborations by sharing that:

In the 1940s, Merce Cunningham and his life partner, composer John Cage, developed a radical new concept: music and dance could exist independently within the same performance. The dancers’ movements would no longer be tied to the rhythms, mood, and structure of music. Instead, all forms of art could stand alone, simply sharing a common space and time. This idea would become a cornerstone of Cunningham's artistic practice and frame his collaborations with a range of visual artists, composers, filmmakers, dancers and designers, whom he brought together in this generous spirit and encouraged to experiment and create.

These concepts are represented in Merce Cunningham’s works BIPED and Beach Birds. Learn more about Merce Cunningham’s unique approach to work here.

The Mondavi Center proudly presents the Merce Cunningham Centennial with CNDC d'Angers/Robert Swinston on November 16, 2019. Information and tickets.