Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Leave it to Chance: a Tribute to Merce Cunningham

It’s not something too common, dancers over forty, over fifty even.  At the  Leave It To Chance concert at the Beaver Brook Cottage, Karen MacIntyre and Loretta Thomas began the program with a tribute to Merce Cunningham who recently died at age 90, and continued to perform past his middle years.  But these women were not performing Cunningham’s choreography. They had created six dances with the music of David Anderson to express how they felt about “the Einstein of dance.”

Karen McIntyre
Loretta Thomas

Mary Greene read words by Cunningham that described his philosophy of movement.    Thomas and McIntyre, two seasoned dancers, knew how to move to this  monologue and convey to the audience what the movements meant.    I was moved by the beauty of the balance of the two women, how carefully they intersected each others’ spaces, especially in the first dance entitled “Radical and Formal.”

In "Trio," a third dancer, Leah Giles, who had been trained by MacIntyre since a very young age, joined the two older women and we were able to see the contrast between the very young and the middle to older bodies. 

The small space at Beaver Brook allowed me to sit so close I felt open to a very sensory experience, not only seeing the detail of every body on stage, but also noticing textures, sounds, smells.  A large avocado plant in the background framed stage right and an altar with threeunlit candles gave an aura of a sanctuary.  Three elegant light fixtures hanging from the high ceiling  cast a curved shadow. 

Merce said, "First you have to begin with the most difficult thing, getting up."  These words were repeated several times in "In the Mean Time..."  in which the Gaia company of dancers, young and old, joined the two principals.  What a feast for the eyes, to see so many body types and faces all crowded into the large living room, dancing to David Anderson's  excellent music which aptly matched the movements.  Even though Cunningham made an eloquent case for his dances not needing music (there is so much to notice in the movement, the music is a distraction), I have to admit I much prefer it.  There is something so satisfying about watching a well trained, well rehearsed body move to the rhythm of great music.

After the intermission, the Gaia Dance Collective performed, each dance choreographed by one of their dancers.  The program closed with  a very winning  "Swing Guitars," full of  humor, whimsy and fun. 

Karen McIntyre explained somewhat wistfully that this would be the last performance of her Triad company in Sullivan County.  It is difficult for her to come to New York from Texas where she lives and teaches.  But she left us with a humorous series of monologues in the voices of the residents who first greeted her when she was just establishing her dance studio. 

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