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Merce Cunningham
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    (April 16, 1919-July 26, 2009)
    Born in Centralia, Washington
    Soloist with Martha Graham's dance company
    Founded the Merce Cunningham Dance Company (1953)
    Frequent collaborator and life partner with avant-garde composer John Cage
    Works choreographed include 'Sixteen Dances for Soloist a Company of Three' (1951), 'Crises' (1960), 'How to Punt, Kick, Fall and Run' (1965), 'Rainforest' (1968), 'Sounddance' (1975), 'Channel/Inserts' (1981), 'Fabrications' (1987), 'Ocean' (1994), 'BIPED' (1999) and 'Nearly Ninety' (2009)
    He said of leaving Graham to pursue the avant-garde, 'I wanted dada, not mama.'
    He separated dance from music: although his company's dancing and Cage's music occurred at the same time, there was deliberately no attempt to match the two.
    His dancers rehearsed their steps in silence and discovered what the music sounded like during the first performance.
    During his company's first European tour (1964), audiences in Paris threw tomatoes and eggs, with some leaving in mid-performance to buy more.
    His set designers included artists Andy Warhol, Robert Rauschenberg and Jasper Johns.
    He incorporated cutting-edge technology in dance, including computer-aided choreography and motion-capture technology.
    He danced regularly with his company until he was 70, and choreographed new works after his 90th birthday.
    Mikhail Baryshnikov said, 'No words can describe my admiration and fascination with this man.' (1999)

Credit: C. Fishel

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