Cunningham devised "choreography by chance," a technique in which selected single motions are given sequence by random means such as coin tossing, which was inspired by the goal of pure movement as free of emotional overtones as possible. These actions were then repeated with slight variations until a whole series had been created.
In 1959, he founded the Dance Company of Columbia University, for which he created many dances that are now considered classics of modern dance. His work attracted attention from all over the world and he became one of the most important influences on later dancers including James Brown, John Cage, and Trisha Brown.
Cunningham died in New York City on September 24, 1996 at the age of seventy-one after suffering for several years from bone marrow cancer.
He is still regarded today as one of the most influential artists in the history of dance.
Cunningham and Cage generated material using stochastic (random) processes, rejecting traditional aesthetic traditions of story and form. They famously stated that dance and music should not be deliberately synced with one another. Dance is a separate discipline with its own rules and conventions, they said, and it should not be forced into fitting together with music.
In addition to this rejection of connection, both artists tended to avoid defining their work by reference to any specific movement type or category. Cunningham called his work "dance", while Cage used the more general term "sound art".
Their work was also characterized by its indifference to audience reaction. Both artists often performed in public places without inviting anyone to watch, and sometimes refused to tell people where they were going or what they were doing. This lack of connection with an audience resulted in some critics labeling their work "anti-art".
Cunningham and Cage were both members of the American New York Dancers group, which met weekly from 1949 to 1951 to discuss their work. The meetings were held at Cunningham's studio and were attended by many other dancers as well as musicians, poets, and visual artists.
Cunningham died in March 1995 at the age of 73. Cage lived until February 1976 at the age of 60.
What exactly is it? Merce Cunningham created the Cunningham Technique (r) to teach dancers for his company. The method stresses form clarity, torso and legwork synchronization, rhythmic correctness, spatial awareness, and virtuosity. It is a rigorous approach that can take years to master.
Merce Cunningham was a American dancer and choreographer who founded the Cunningham Company in New York City in 1959. He was one of the first modern dance artists to attract widespread attention in the United States. His work was influenced by Bauhaus and Dada movements in Europe and by Japanese artistry. Cunningham was a major force in bringing contemporary dance into the mainstream during the late 1950s and early 1960s.
He began teaching his method in 1964 at his school in Brooklyn, New York. The class size averaged between six and eight people. By the time he died of cancer in 1996, more than 1000 students had taken his class.
Today, many schools around the world follow a modified version of the technique taught by former students of Cunningham's. These classes are often called "Cunningham classes" or "merce dancing".
In addition to being a teacher, Cunningham also wrote several books on dance and music which have become standards among teachers and students of his technique.