If you want to see the revolutionary Merce Cunningham Dance Company do its thing, this weekend is your last chance. The company hit the road for a final two year tour after avant garde dance pioneer Merce Cunningham’s death in 2009. The company will disband at the end of 2011.
After rolling into Berkeley in a Volkswagen bus for its first performance here in 1962, the company went on to perform 26 seasons locally. For the company’s final Bay Area performance, they’ll perform pieces from various eras of Cunningham’s incomparable 70 year career.
Dancers echo water in Pond Way, a lyrical and meditative nature study. Antic Meet, Cunningham’s funny 1958 collaboration with Robert Rauschenberg, is a collection of vaudeville-esque scenes. In Sounddance, Cunningham’s choreography sweeps the dancers around the stage like they're “bobbing in the ocean, being swept by wave after wave, getting sucked under and tumbled around from all directions,” says the Washington Post.
Saturday’s performance features the Bay Area premiere of Roaratorio, the ambitious 1983 collaboration with John Cage, Cunningham’s life partner for over 50 years. “Roaratorio proved my most joyous, exhilarating, uplifting and sensory-intensive hour in the theater,” says the Los Angeles Times. Based on James Joyce’s Finnegan’s Wake, this energetic ode to Irish folk dance was scored by Cage with sound recordings from Ireland and bits of text interspersed with the jigs and reels. Cunningham’s deliberately awkward choreography flips grace around, doing to dance what Joyce did to language.
Considered one of the most important choreographers of our time, “Merce Cunningham reinvented dance, and then waited for the audience,” says Mikhail Baryshnikov. “He has taught us something new and powerful about how to dance and how to live.”
March 3-5. Zellerbach Hall, Bancroft Way at Telegraph Ave, Berkeley. Tickets are $22-56 at 510-642-9988 or calperformances.org.