In 2024, Dance Reflections by Van Cleef & Arpels is supporting the Lyon Opera Ballet for the presentation of Beach Birds and BIPED by Merce Cunningham.
While Merce Cunningham died in 2009 at age 90, he kept inspiring the work and passion of dance lovers. His 1991 Beach Birds is the result of his long, fruitful partnership with composer John Cage. This contemplative landscape sprinkles extensive groundwork with chance, mixes calculated and naturalistic motions; these signature, deliberate contradictions open the door for an array of feelings: experiment the softness of dawn, listen to the birds singing, feel the sound of the sea… To create BIPED in 1999, with music by Gavin Bryars, Cunningham generated movements using a computer software, producing a choreography for artificial shapes: giant, slender forms projected next to the people dancing on stage, multiplying moving figures and dimensions. The Merce Cunningham Forever program, where the sensuous meets the abstract, renders the spirit of this modern dance master.
About the artist
Merce Cunningham (1919 – 2009) was a leader of the American avant-garde throughout his seventy-year career and is considered one of the most important choreographers of our time. With an artistic career distinguished by constant experimentation and collaboration with groundbreaking artists from every discipline, Cunningham expanded the frontiers of dance and contemporary visual and performing arts. Cunningham’s lifelong passion for innovation also made him a pioneer in applying new technologies to the arts.
Cunningham began his professional dance career at 20 with a six-year tenure as a soloist in the Martha Graham Dance Company. In 1944 he presented his first solo show and in 1953 formed the Merce Cunningham Dance Company as a forum to explore his groundbreaking ideas. Together with John Cage, his partner in life and work, Cunningham proposed a number of radical innovations, chief among them that dance and music may occur in the same time and space, but should be created independently of one another. They also made extensive use of chance procedures, abandoning musical forms, narrative, and other conventional elements of dance composition. For Cunningham the subject of his dances was always dance itself.
Photo : © Annie Leibovitz