Merce Cunningham Hardly Wows at Dia:Beacon

mcdcdiabeacon2008.jpgToday at Dia:Beacon, the Merce Cunningham Dance Company (MCDC) mounted a site-specific piece in the Walter De Maria galleries devoted to “Equal Area Series” (1976-90).

Entitled “Beacon Event” or “Dia:B2,” the 45-minute program included a medley of established dances along with some new sequences…all accompanied by four gifted and unconventional musicians.

The dance floor was split between both De Maria galleries but joined by a single doorway. The choreography played with an idea central to the De Maria piece, namely symmetry and the incongruity of counterparts. There was no one vantage point available to the viewer that allowed one to see the full sweep of both dance floors.

The choreography was strong, relying heavily on the dancers’ strong legs to endlessly balance themselves into cantilevering postures. Sadly, the work as a whole felt fragmented. While various moments were inspiring or delightful because of unexpected chains of movement, like many of MCDC’s more recent work, the gimmick wasn’t strong enough to sustain the piece as a whole–in this case, the “gimmick” was relating the choreography to the adjacent art work, in other cases it was the use of chance as dictated by dice and more recently offering audiences a chance to dictate their own soundtrack using iPods.

There will a second performance tomorrow (Sunday) and in May, MCDC will be performing a new work in another of the museum’s galleries.

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Photo caption: An hour before the performance was to begin Merce Cunningham (seated) placed his finishing touches to the choreography for “Dia:B2.” Since photos were not permitted, I was only able to snap this clandestine photo before the performance began.

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