Put simply, Cunningham created a new kind of movement: barefoot, exacting, moving on from the work of pioneers of modern dance such as Martha Graham, and existing in its own world, uncoupled from music as structural base to which dancers dance.
Merce Cunningham opened the way to raft of new and experimental choreographers such as Pam Tanowitz, who has now created an especially commissioned piece for this Royal Ballet commemorative triple bill.
The Royal Ballet’s programme at the Royal Opera House’s intimate Linbury Theatre marks the company’s participation in the worldwide celebrations of the centenary of Merce Cunningham (he was born on 16th April 1919).
Pam Tanowitz's as yet unnamed piece follows hard on the heels of her extraordinary Four Quartets at the Barbican earlier this year. This mesmerising work, set to live music and a reading of TS Eliot’s eponymous poems, demonstrated Tanowitz’s choreographic and conceptual debt to Cunningham, while dazzling with freshness and innovation.
The programme opens – of course! – with a work by Merce Cunningham himself, Cross Currents. First performed in London in 1964, the title comes from the way the dancers' paths frequently intersect, with each dancer having their own, different rhythm, but all coming together at the end of the phrase.
This short work is accompanied by Conlon Nancarrow’s Rhythm Studies for Player Piano.
The middle piece in the programme is Monotones II (pictured up top), a 1965 abstract work by the Royal Ballet founder choreographer Frederick Ashton, indebted to Merce Cunningham. Set to Eric Satie’s serene and haunting Trois Gymnopédies, Monotones II is a work for a trio of white-clad dancers, which creates a miraculous blend of classicism and modernism.
NOTE: Pam Tanowitz discusses her first work for the Royal Ballet in an Insights event at the ROH Clore Studio on Monday, 30 September at 19:30. Dur.: 1hour 30 mins no interval.
Age Guidance: 14+
|What||The Royal Ballet, Merce Cunningham Centenary Bill, Linbury|
|Where||Royal Opera House, Bow Street, Covent Garden, London, WC2E 9DD | MAP|
|Nearest tube||Covent Garden (underground)|
10 Oct 19 – 11 Oct 19, At 19;15 and 21:00 Dur.: 45 mins no interval
|Website||Click here to book|