Choreographer Merce Cunningham and visual artist Robert Rauschenberg were groundbreaking when they first collaborated from 1954 to 1964, and they kept breaking ground right up through their last collaboration in 2007. The two men believed art referred only to itself, and they created riveting works together. Even now in the age of YouTube, after the legendary choreographer and painter have passed on, their work still looks weird and wonderful.
This week, the collaboration continues beyond the grave, with a tribute to both men as part of the Cunningham Legacy Tour, which has been kicking around Europe and now begins in the States at the Arsht Center’s Ziff Ballet Opera House. Cunningham’s company will perform excerpts from the repertoire in an offering simply called Event.
“I chose the costumes by Rauschenberg,” admits the company’s executive director, Trevor Carlson, of the bespackled brown and orange unitards originally designed by artist for Interscape. “The choreography by Merce has been chosen by Robert Swinston, Director of Choreography, representing the six decades of work by Cunningham.”
The music to go with that movement will be left to chance, though. As Carlson explains: “The choreography is quite structured but the music, choreography, and design were considered separately with Merce’s idea in mind that something greater might come out of the works created separately by joining them in the same space at the same time.
What makes the evening particularly exciting is that the audience will be walking around the 360-degree stage with the dancers. “There is no way to see everything, but there will always be something to see,” Carlson promises. “This kind of performance was first created by Merce when invited to perform in a museum rather than a theater. We thought it would be nice, during Art Basel Miami, to push the envelope a bit by creating this same kind of situation in a theater.”
As far as we know, though, you will not be required to make any of Cunningham’s signature angular movements or don one of Rauschenberg’s vintage unitards.
The Event runs Thursday through Saturday at 7 p.m.and 9:30 p.m. at the Arsht Center’s Ziff Ballet Opera House (1300 Biscayne Boulevard, Miami). Tickets cost $35. Call 305-949-6722 or visit arshtcenter.org.
Originally published in the Miami New Times in December 2010.