Event Archives

Merce Cunningham Dance Company

IN 1953:
The visionary dancer and choreographer Merce Cunningham partnered with John Cage to form the Merce Cunningham Dance Company in Black Mountain, North Carolina.

IN 2009:
Merce passed away at 90, spurring a drive to archive the work of this American original. Fulfilling the founder’s vision, a legacy tour is set to bring Merce’s dance modernism to the world, live, a final time.

IN 2011:
The legendary company returns to North Carolina for two once-in-a-lifetime shows, the last time they appear in the state that started it all.

Merce. Two nights. Three decades of dance modernism.
The essential Merce Cunningham Dance Company, live in North Carolina a final time.


“An ecstatic opus” for 10 dancers; “the whole experience, music and dancing, [is] an exhilarating rush” (Washington Post).

DUETS (1980)
“A newly eloquent peak” in the choreographer’s meditation on human movement (NY Times). Ends in a whirling finale for all 6 couples.

BIPED (1999)
“One of his most luxuriant works, where futuristic patterns of light frame choreography of scale and wonder” (Guardian (UK)). For the full company.


“[Cunningham] spent more than 50 years creating dances of uncompromising rigor, works so pure in concept and pristine in execution that they take your breath away.”
London Times

“Cunningham ranks among the foremost figures of artistic modernism and among the few who have transformed the nature and status of dance theater. In his works, independence was central.”
New York Times

“Merce Cunningham reinvented dance, and then waited for the audience…He has taught us something new and powerful about how to dance and how to live, and about the diversity of art in America.”
—Mikhail Baryshnikov



Thursday, February 3
History Matters: “Suite for Five”
Performance & Discussion
Reynolds Auditorium, Bryan Center, Duke’s West Campus, 6:30p

As part of their Duke residency, the Merce Cunningham Dance Company will perform and discuss their iconic piece Suite for Five, featuring music by John Cage and costumes by Robert Rauschenberg.

Spare and meditative, Suite for Five is an illustrative example of Merce Cunningham’s aesthetic. Following the performance MCDC Archivist David Vaughn, Director of Choreography Robert Swintson, and Executive Director Trevor Carlson will give a presentation on the history of Merce Cunningham’s work and how his general themes are represented in Suite for Five. Audience members will have the opportunity to see archival materials, ask questions and interact with the company.

This in-depth and behind-the-scenes introduction to Cunningham’s work should not be missed.

Friday, February 4
Merce Cunningham Dance Company Masterclass
with MCDC Director of Choreography Robert Swinston
The Ark Studio, Duke’s East Campus, 10a

  • Fri, Feb 4, 2011 at 8:00pm