Merce Cunningham, Event, 2009. Performance view, Rockefeller Park, New York, August 6, 2009. Merce Cunningham Dance Company. Photo: Ryan McNamara.

THE SKY WAS GLEAMING one day and gray the next. Over two consecutive afternoons, a small crowd gathered, waiting patiently, in Rockefeller Park in New York. Each day, a strange horn sounded, eleven dancers dressed like superheroes cut across the grass toward two platforms, and the performance commenced: intelligent, rigorous, ebullient.

Merce Cunningham’s last self-arranged “Event” (as he called it) took place in early August, a mere week after his death. His passing, at age ninety, left a hole not only in his company—which is radically slated for dissolution following a two-year world tour—but in the heart of the performance world at large. This hole was the subject of a plangent piece for the Huffington Post by Michael Kaiser, president of the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts (hardly the front lines of the avant-garde), fretfully titled “Why I Worry About Modern

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