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last dance

April 28, 2010

[Guardian] Merce Cunningham died before I finished cutting my film, Craneway Event. The idea had been to present it alongside his 90th birthday celebrations on 16 April last year, when he was due to premiere Nearly Ninety, his most recent – and now final – choreographed work at the Brooklyn Academy of Music. But the film was too big a project and I realised I needed more time, so I postponed the screening until November. Until mid-July, I was corresponding with Merce’s dance company, confirming possible dates. I was told he was dealing with the ageing process in a very robust way, although I thought he looked substantially thinner in the photographs I had seen of him taking his final bow after Nearly Ninety. Less than a fortnight later, on 26 July, I got a terrible shock when I learned he had died.

Merce was a trouper who, despite his age and the crumbling bones that put him in a wheelchair, never stopped working. He continued to create new pieces, and when he was in town never missed class in his studio on the 11th floor of Bethune Street, on Manhattan’s Lower West Side. So much so that when he failed to show up the week before he died, the news rippled through the dance community as far as Europe – a sure sign that something was wrong. Merce left life with the same grace with which he lived it, finding time to say goodbye to every one of his company and many friends besides. (read more of article by Tacita Dean)

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