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In a career spanning seven decades, Merce Cunningham’s innovation expanded the frontiers of dance, reshaping it into a new kind of art form. Eschewing labels like “avant-garde choreographer”, he preferred simply to be called a “dancer”.
His focus on dancing as a visual experience is vibrantly realised in Alla Kovgan’s film, which brings to life dances originally created by Cunningham between 1942 and 1972, in surprising settings.
With his life partner, the musician John Cage, Cunningham evolved the concept that music and dance could develop separately and exist independently in the same performance. Audio and fascinating archive tell the story of Cunningham’s struggle to fulfil his artistic vision through his young dance troupe, whose audiences were often bemused by their performances.
When asked how he kept going through negative reviews, Cunningham tells an interviewer: "The only thing for me is I am really deeply fond of dancing.”