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July 28th, 2009 By Steven Rosen | Arts & Culture | Posted In: Visual Art, Dance

Merce Cunningham Dies in His 90th Year


Merce Cunningham — one of the giants of 20th-century dance and choreography — died on Sunday at age 90 in Manhattan.

Cunningham had a friendship with Cincinnati art dealer Carl Solway, whose show of his drawings, Merce Cunningham in His 90th Year, is on display at Carl Solway Gallery through Aug. 15. It was organized to celebrate Cunningham's recent 90th birthday. Solway got to know Cunningham through the latter's longtime partner, the late composer John Cage, when Cage did a residency at University of Cincinnati's College Conservatory of Music in 1968. Cincinnati arts patrons Alice and Harris Weston arranged for Cage's visit here. (Harris Weston died in June at age 91.) (Steven Rosen)

You can read a lovely review of the Cunningham show by Citybeat's Julie Mullins here. Below are some of Ms. Mullins' thoughts on Cunningham's passing, as well as the recent death of choreographer/dancer Pina Bausch.

The art world has lost yet another important and highly influential luminary: Merce Cunningham. Cunningham was one of the last remaining pioneers of modern dance, yet he reached so far beyond the genre. He crossed countless boundaries with his unorthodox collaborations with well-known visual artists. His incorporation of unexpected elements — such as concepts from the I Ching and random chance — elevated his choreographic works into authentic theatrical experiments and experiences.

For The New York Times' Dance Critic Alastair Macauley's article on Cunningham's passing, go here.

This sad news follows all too soon on the heels of the recent death of German choreographer/dancer Pina Bausch, who succumbed to cancer on June 30 of this year at age 68, reportedly just days after receiving her diagnosis. A longtime smoker, she last appeared on stage at Germany's Wuppertal Opera house on June 21, 2009. Bausch is credited with developing a highly expressionistic movement language and became best known for her postmodern Tanztheater style that melds dance with dramatic and theatrical elements, including elaborate sets, dialogue, etc. Her work was also seen in Pedro Almodóvar's 2002 film, Talk to Her.

Here's a YouTube clip of an excerpt from one of Bausch's seminal works, "Café Mller," first performed in 1978:

Need some good news? According to BBC News, German filmmaker/director Wim Wenders plans to resume work on his 3-D film project highlighting three of Bausch's best-known works. Following three months of planning, he had stopped at the time of her demise. (Julie Mullins)

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