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NYU Skirball to Present In Conversation with Merce, May 3 & 4

by Helene Davis
April 23, 2019
NYU Skirball Center for the Performing Arts
566 LaGuardia Place at Washington Square
New York, NY 10012
NYU Skirball will present In Conversation with Merce, a celebration of Cunningham’s legacy through world premiere commissions of contemporary artists, running Friday, May 3 and Saturday, May 4 at NYU Skirball.

In Conversation with Merce aims to engage the public in theoretical, practical and experiential approaches to examining Merce’s cultural and artistic contribution and is curated by Rashaun Mitchell, a former Merce Cunningham Dance Company dancer and a Trustee of the Merce Cunningham Trust. Choreographers Moriah Evans, Mina Nishimura and Netta Yerushalmy will each present responsive experiments that draw connections of lineage to the celebrated choreographer. Drawing on conceptual, formal and personal affinities with Cunningham, the three distinctive choreographers converse with his simultaneous presence and absence. In addition to the three commissioned works, select pieces by Merce Cunningham will be performed by Shayla Vie Jenkins and Keith Sabado. Lighting design is by Davison Scandrett.

Merce Cunningham is widely considered one of the most important choreographers of all time. Throughout his 70-year career, he continued to innovate, helping to drive the evolution of the American avant-garde and expanding the frontiers of contemporary visual and performance arts. His collaborations with artists from every creative discipline yielded an unparalleled body of American dance, music and visual art. In Conversation with Merce is part of the 2019 world-wide Merce Cunningham Centenary festivities. mercecunningham.org

Rashaun Mitchell is a choreographer, performer and teacher living and working in NYC. He is a 2014 Guggenheim Fellow and recipient of the 2012 NY Dance and Performance Award (Bessies) for "Outstanding Emerging Choreographer.” Other awards include a 2007 Princess Grace Award: Dance Fellowship, a 2013 Foundation for Contemporary Art "Grant to Artist," and a 2011 New York Dance and Performance ("Bessie") Award for "Sustained achievement in the work of Merce Cunningham 2004-2012." He is a Cunningham Trustee and licensed stager of the repertory. Mitchell has taught master classes throughout the country and is currently the Associate Chair of the Dance department at NYU Tisch School of the Arts.

Moriah Evans is an artist working in and on the form of dance. Her choreographies navigate utopic and dystopic potentials and tendencies within dance, approached as a fleshy and matriarchal form sliding between minimalism and excess. She initiated The Bureau for the Future of Choreography, a collective apparatus involved in research processes and practices to investigate participatory images of performance and systems of choreography. She is Editor-in-Chief of the Movement Research Performance Journal and Curatorial Advisor for the Tanzkongress 2019: A Long Lasting Affair. She received the Foundation for Contemporary Arts Grants to Artists Award (2017) and a Bessie Award nomination for Emerging Choreographer (2015).

Moriah’s work takes the form of a choreographed dialogue—featuring Cyril Baldy, Silas Riener, and Carlo Antonio Villanueva. The piece features live music by David Watson, with John King and Sam Kulik.

Mina Nishimura, from Tokyo, was introduced to Butoh through Kota Yamazaki. She has been working and collaborating in dance, theater and film with various artists; in most recent years with John Jasperse, Dean Moss, Rashaun Mitchel +Silas Riener, SIA, Celia-Rowlson Hall, Vicky Shick, Neil Greenberg, Nami Yamamoto, Ursula Eagly, Ellen Fisher and Kota Yamazaki. She was Artist-in-Residence at Brooklyn Arts Exchange in 2011, at Chez Bushwick in 2013, at Movement Research in 2013-15 and at The Camargo Foundation (France) in 2017. She is a current Faculty at Sarah Lawrence College and Movement Research, and is a 2019 recipient of Foundation for Contemporary Arts Award.

Nishimura’s work, entitled Hi, Merce! I Have a Question., is an intimate self-dialogue with Merce Cunningham based on Nishimura’s 4-year experiences as an international student at Merce Cunnigham Studio. Through this work, Nishimura investigates and fantasizes how Merce’s philosophies and practices meet and are integrated in her own butoh-based dance practices. Samuel Hanson, Lydia Chrisman, Martita Abril, Jonathan Burklund, Niko Tsocanos, Ilana Stuelpner, Emily Climer, Tyler Rai, Maho Ogawa, Anna Rogovoy and Kota Yamazaki with a lighting designer Davison Scandrett will join Nishimura to shape the rather, partly, delusional work.

Netta Yerushalmy received a Guggenheim Fellowship, a Foundation for Contemporary Arts Award, LMCC’s Extended Life, a NYFA Fellowship, a Research Fellowship at the NY Public Library for the Performing Arts, among other awards. She is a Toulmin Fellow at the Center for Ballet and the Arts, a NY City Center Fellow, and In 2019-21 will be a Princeton Arts Fellow. Her work has been presented by Jacob’s Pillow, American Dance Festival, HAU Hebbel am Ufer, Joyce Theater, New York Live Arts, Wexner Center for the Arts, Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater Foundation. She has collaborated extensively with scholars from various fields, most notably in her acclaimed Paramodernities series.

Netta’s conversation with Merce takes place by inhabiting, cataloging, reducing, boomeranging, and interpolating 100 single movements taken directly from Cunningham works. This experiment is performed and created by a heterogeneous cast of seventeen dancers: Marc Crousillat, Tito del Saz, Elizabeth Dement, Tess Dworman, Brittany Engel-Adams, Stanley Gambucci, Colin Heininger, Jennifer Lafferty, Jennifer Nugent, Jordan Lloyd, Maile Okamura, Ambika Raina, Antonio Ramos, Missy Robinson, Stacy Spence, Wallie Wolfgruber, and Yerushalmy herself.

* * * * * * * * *

Skirball Moves programming is generously supported by the Mertz Gilmore Foundation and the Harkness Foundation for Dance.


Tickets for In Conversation with Merce are $25 and can be purchased online at www.nyuskirball.org, by phone at 212.998.4941, or in person at the Box Office, 566 LaGuardia Place at Washington Square: Tuesday-Saturday, 12:00–6:00 P.M. NYU Skirball is located at 566 LaGuardia Place at Washington Square, New York, New York 10012. www.nyuskirball.org


NYU Skirball, located in the heart of Greenwich Village, is one of New York City’s major presenters of international work, and has been the premier venue for cultural and performing arts events in lower Manhattan since 2003. The 800-seat theater, led by Director Jay Wegman, provides a home for internationally renowned artists, innovators and thinkers. NYU Skirball hosts over 300 events annually, from re-inventions of the classics to cutting-edge premieres, in genres ranging from dance, theater and performance arts to comedy, music and film.

NYU Skirball’s unique partnership with New York University enables it to draw on the University’s intellectual riches and resources to enhance its programming with dialogues, public forums and conversations with artists, philosophers, scientists, Nobel Laureates and journalists. www.nyuskirball.org

Jay Wegman is the Director of NYU Skirball Center for the Performing Arts. Prior to Skirball, he served as Director of the Abrons Art Center for ten years. During his tenure, Abrons was awarded various honors, including a 2014 OBIE Award for Innovative Excellence and a 2015 Bessie Award for Best Production. He was also a Fellow at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, D.C., and for over a decade served as the first Canon for Liturgy and the Arts at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine. He is the recipient of the 2015 FRANKY award for “making a long-term, extraordinary impact on contemporary theatre and performance in New York City.” While not a performer, he has appeared in Brian Roger’s film “Screamers” (2018), Sibyl Kempson’s “12 Shouts to the Ten Forgotten Heavens” (2017), and “Romper Room” (1969). Jay is a graduate of Yale University. www.nyuskirball.org

Subways: A, B, C, D, E, F, M to West 4th St.; R & W to 8th Street; 6 to Astor Place.
Programs, artists and ticket prices are subject to change.
Merce Cunningham

Merce Cunningham

Photo © & courtesy of Photographer Unknown

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