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one flat foot

December 30, 2008

(NYTimes) Merce Cunningham — who has been choreographing professionally for 66 years — has long spoken of motion in stillness and stillness in motion. Certainly no choreographer has made such extraordinary use of stillness. His dancers do not stop dancing while remaining quite motionless, any more than an actor in Harold Pinter’s plays stops acting during their celebrated pauses. Often they hold long balances — some on one flat foot, others on half-toe — with an unmatched kind of repose or mystery.

These and other stillnesses were among the salient characteristics of the great nature studies Mr. Cunningham made in the last century (“Summerspace,” “Inlets” and many others). In these, like the camera in a wildlife documentary, he took us into zones undisturbed by any human. But there have also been other stillnesses in his work, and some of these have been more fraught, more expressionistic.

In “Shards” (1987), several dancers were required to stand still with their torsos tilting stiffly sideways for seven or eight minutes at a time. To the audience, it looked like nature traumatized. (Read on…)

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