MERCE CUNNINGHAM Biography - Famous Poets and dancers


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MERCE CUNNINGHAM, born in Centralia, Washington, received his first formal dance     
and theater training at the Cornish School (now Cornish College of the Arts) in       
Seattle. From 1939 to 1945, he was a soloist in the company of Martha Graham. He     
presented his first New York solo concert with John Cage in April 1944. Merce         
Cunningham Dance Company was formed at Black Mountain College in the summer of       
1953. Since that time Cunningham has choreographed nearly 200 works for his           
company. In 1973 he choreographed Un jour ou deux for the Ballet of the Paris         
Opéra, with music by John Cage and design by Jasper Johns. (A revised version         
was presented there in 1986.) The Ballet of the Paris Opéra also performed a         
revival of his Points in Space in 1990. His work has also been presented by New       
York City Ballet, American Ballet Theatre, Boston Ballet, White Oak Dance             
Project, Pacific Northwest Ballet, Pennsylvania Ballet, Zurich Ballet, and           
Rambert Dance Company (London), among others.                                         
Cunningham has worked extensively in film and video, in collaboration first with     
Charles Atlas and later with Elliot Caplan. In 1999 the collaboration with Atlas     
was resumed with the production of the documentary Merce Cunningham: A Lifetime       
of Dance. In 2004/2005 they collaborated again on a new piece whose final form       
is in two versions, Views on Camera and Views on Video. This was funded by a         
grant from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation; further projects under this grant         
include films of Split Sides (2003) and Ocean (1994, revived 2005). Cunningham's     
interest in contemporary technology has led him to work with the computer             
program DanceForms, which he has used in making all his dances since Trackers (1991). 
In 1997 he began work in motion capture with Paul Kaiser and Shelley Eshkar of       
Riverbed Media to develop the decor for BIPED, with music by Gavin Bryars, first     
performed in 1999 at Zellerbach Hall, University of California at Berkeley.           
Another major work, Interscape, first given in 2000, reunited Cunningham with         
his early collaborator Robert Rauschenberg, who designed both décor and costumes     
for the dance, which has music by John Cage.