PRINT September 2008


John Cage, Merce Cunningham, and Robert Rauschenberg, London, 1964. Photo: Douglas Jeffreys.

THE MERCE CUNNINGHAM DANCE COMPANY made a world tour in 1964. Robert Rauschenberg was the stage manager. One of the dances we carried on the tour had the title Story [1963]. The dance was composed of seventeen different movement phrases, which were choreographed as separate elements to be re-arranged for each performance. The order for the given showing was written out and placed on the two sides of the stage before the performance. The composer for the dance was Toshi Ichiyanagi. David Tudor performed the work at the piano. Performance after performance, the sound was different. I asked Bob if he could devise a decor for each performance out of whatever he found from the theater in which we were playing. He agreed, and, skimpy or lavish, each decor had a new look, at the same time leaving space free for the dance. At one of the London performances, he was onstage painting a canvas in an upstage corner. I think he cheated and came in the afternoon to hurry it up. I understand that it now hangs in the Art Gallery of Ontario in Toronto.

Merce Cunningham is a New York–based dancer and choreographer.