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Happy Birthday, Merce Cunningham: We Hardly Knew Ye

“What is this indescribable event in a dancer’s life (when he loves dancing) that arises, given all the shit, the terrible hours of work, the grumbling and malaise of a company, the point-of-vertigo fatigue when he one day drops it all and dances…and some internal-infernal hook holds one at a peak for those few seconds, […]

“What is this indescribable event in a dancer’s life (when he loves dancing) that arises, given all the shit, the terrible hours of work, the grumbling and malaise of a company, the point-of-vertigo fatigue when he one day drops it all and dances…and some internal-infernal hook holds one at a peak for those few seconds, if you are extremely lucky, minutes.”—Merce Cunningham, from Other Animals: Drawings and Journals by Merce Cunningham

The secret inside of Merce Cunningham's cape for Antic Meet (1958). Photo: Abigail Sebaly

The secret inside of Merce Cunningham’s cape for Antic Meet (1958). Photo: Abigail Sebaly

Today we salute Merce Cunningham with an extract of Deli Commedia (1985), one of his short dance films directed by Elliot Caplan.  The piece has hues of the physical comedy of Commedia dell’Arte theater, realized with the aid of pastel Reebok high tops and the worm.  Although the dance was originally paired with music by pianist Pat Richter, the segment here is a masterful blind date mash-up with Black Sabbath.  This is why we love Merce.  His invitation for us to embrace chance pairings allows for even the most unlikely unions to seem so right.  Merce and Ozzy Osbourne, the collaboration that nearly got away: