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Merce Fair at the Lincoln Center Festival

by Joanna G. Harris
July 16, 2011
Lincoln Center
Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts, Inc.
140 West 65th Street
New York, NY 10023
212.875.5456
Frederick P. Rose Hall, New York City
Just Wonderful!

Spend a whole day with Merce Cunningham! See his work performed by both the current company and the Repertory Understudy Group. Learn some of 'Field Dances' from Patricia Lent as you toss and kick the helium filled balloons created by Andy Warhol in the Rose Theater's Atrium Lobby! Listen to former company members talk about their work with Merce and see videos from the company's vast library of dance film. Talk with David Vaughan, company archivist, about the posters, books, and programs that document sixty years of work. All of that was possible, and more at the Merce Fair, part of the Lincoln Center Festival, 2011.

Most events went on all day but each portion of the day had special events. At noon, Robert Swinston taught company class. The hour and a quarter demonstrated the detailed work Cunningham brought to dancers, the use of torso, head, spine and feet that makes the choreography so complex and the dancers' skill so powerful. At 3 PM the company performed "Duets" and "Squaregame", two works repeated at the evening show. And, at 5:15, the amazingly skilled Repertory Understudy Group (affectionately called Rugs) did "Invention MiniEvent". At various other times, Nancy Delva, who produces the Web site "Mondays with Merce" interviewed former Cunningham dancers and John Cage's music was presented in the Allen Room.

The dancing was superb. "Duets" (1980) consists of six couples, all differently costumed by Mark Lancaster, each working within slightly varied energy levels and patterns. For example, Robert Swinston was a quietly supportive partner while Emma Desjardins danced rings around him. Meanwhile, Dylan Crossman and Melissa Toogood are frantically jumping and reaching skyward. Always remarkable to watch is the elegant dancing of Andrea Weber, this time partnered by Brandon Collwes. Around and through the group each couple employs their own special energy and shape. "Duets" is a gorgeous illustration of Cunningham's ability to maintain complexity, yet present audiences with clear patterns, rich dance vocabulary and arresting work.

"Squaregame," (1980) is both play and drama. Large duffle bags are placed on stage. They serve as resting places, objects to be thrown and at one point, to be sat on and bounced. But out of the games emerges a solo that was once Merce's. In the afternoon show,this was done by John Hinrichs. His stature and gesture almost evoked Merce's own presence while Rashoun Mitchell's evening performance was his own, powerful and unique. All the characteristic hand, head and shoulder movements were there, as well as the special use of feet and torso.
How impossible it is to believe that this work, so accomplished, so satisfying and so beautiful executed will be gone by the end of 2011. Yet this is the Legacy. Let us hope that somehow we will be able to see these wonderful events in the future.

The dancers of the company are: Brandon Collwes, Dylaln Crossman, Emma Desjardins, Jennifer Groggans, John Hinrichs, Daniel Madoff, Rashaun Mitchell, Marcie Munnerlyn, Krista Nelson, Silas Riener, James Scott, Melissa Toogood and Andrea Weber. The understudy group are: David Rafael Botana, Stacy Martorana, Cori Kresge and Timothy Ward. Bravo to them all!
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