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April 7, 2011

Merce Cunningham Dance Company: Your Questions Answered


On February 18 & 19, UMS presented two legendary nights of dance with the Merce Cunningham Dance Company. We were so excited about the experience that we wanted to hear your questions and comments. At the performance we had the UMS Post-It Wall in the lobby where many of you left comments about the performance and questions for the company. Here are your questions answered as well as some highlights from the wall.

Q&A with MCDC

Why did the Company decide to close?
Because it was felt that the company could not continue without Merce. Although there is a large repertory of dances that could be revived, and the company could go on performing these for a while, finally a dance company needs new work, and there is no choreographer who could make new work for MCDC  that would be of the same quality as Merce’s own choreography. Also it was felt that MCDC should consist of dancers who were trained by Merce and worked with him, and once that was no longer the case the company should come to an end.

David Vaughan
Merce Cunningham Dance Company

Do you prefer pure dance form or a narrative in  your choreography?
Pure choreography. I find it leaves you with more opportunities to make different choices about how to approach the same movements differently on any given day.

If the movement is independent of the music, then how do you set a pace and synchronize your movements?
We rely on muscle memory and on each other to keep a consistent tempo. And we rely on the clock to gauge how fast or slow we are by the end of a piece.

How do you like dancing barefoot?
I’ve grown so accustomed to it that I can’t even wear ballet shoes anymore without feeling totally disconnected from the floor.

Any blisters?
Lots of splits!

What was Merce like as a teacher?
Merce was always very present as a teacher. You could sense he had a great interest in watching how different individuals would tackle the impossible tasks he would throw at us in class. He was impatient with questions–rather that clarify every detail he just wanted us to, “Just do something.” I’ve heard that Merce once said he didn’t like teaching class. Whether or not that’s true, I think he really enjoyed watching people learn.

What was your first reaction when you heard that Merce passed away?
There was an amazing storm the night before and I couldn’t help thinking that Merce probably wouldn’t have gone any other way.

What do you do when you wake up tired and uninspired?
I listen to music that makes me want to wiggle around and smile. It reconnects me to the lighter side of dance and all of a sudden everything gets easier.

Jamie Scott
Merce Cunningham Dance Company

Quotes from the UMS Post-It Wall:

-“Physical equivalent of a Jackson Pollock.”

-“Loved the music.”

-“Tonight’s sounds expressed soul!”

-“Merce, Merci, Mercy, Magnificent!”

-“Music = Annoying”

-“His legacy is a legacy!”

-“Movement for movement’s sake.”

-“A guided escape. Thanks!”

-“A once in a lifetime experience.”

-F@*%ing Brilliant.

-“No Cause, No Effect. Dance, Dance.”


-“A wonder of the life body.”

-“Étrange, mais magnifique! <3”

-“Like a vacation on another planet.”