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BIPED / How to Pass, Kick, Fall & Run
30 October @ 8.00 pm - 10.00 pmAED 100
Two classic Merce Cunningham dances, presented by one of the key centres that keep Merce Cunningham’s flame burning – the Centre National de Danse Contemporaine from Angers, France, directed by longtime Cunningham collaborator/dancer/choreographer Robert Swinston (who also runs the CNDC).
Merce Cunningham has had a profound impact on modern dance. Throughout his 70-year career, he continued learning and innovating; he rejected narration, focussing instead on pure movement and often executing different rhythms and movements in the legs, torso, and arms at the same time. (“it’s when dancing gets awkward that it starts to get interesting,” he once said).
How to Pass, Kick, Fall and Run, first danced back in 1965, is the shorter of the two pieces here. Narrators read a series of anecdotes drawn from John Cage’s 1958 lecture Indeterminacy, with music also by Cage (he and Cunningham were good friends). Some of the stories have punch lines, others don’t; they are speeded up or slowed down to make them fit into one-minute chunks. At the same time the dancers give us a whirl of vigorous athletic moves. It’s based on the sporty title, but it’s not about sport; you can make up your own mind about the “meaning”, but this is conceptual art applied to dance – it is what it is, and any interpretation or reaction is entirely your own business.
BIPED, originally created in 1999 when Cunningham was 80 years old, illustrates another of his imaginative innovations, the use of new technologies as a way of creating dances. In the early 1990s Cunningham came across a pioneering programme which produced 3D wireframes of the human figure that could be made to do all kinds of movements, including spins, jumps, and leaps. He used the software to experiment with choreographic ideas which he then tried out with his dancers; often the computer-generated sequences could not be executed IRL, but they would lead to movement choices that he hadn’t expected or done before – and that was what Cunningham wanted, to get outside what was comfortable or habitual.
He was involved in developing the programme further, and he used that to generate every work he made after 1991 … including BIPED, widely considered his masterwork. BIPED is right on the junction of dance and digital arts, for it also has a projected décor using motion capture technology (digital figures perform the same dance phrases as the human dancers) and a haunting electronic music score by Gavin Byars.
BIPED has retained its somewhat otherworldly ambiance, and for at least one critic it summoned images of death and transcendence; this is a piece that pushes the envelope of physicality but also stimulates the imagination.
This is a rare opportunity, with a single show in Abu Dhabi; not to be missed.