As I reflect on the recent passing of Merce Cunningham, I recognize the philosophy and achievements of the innovative choreographer and creator. Perhaps he is most recognized for his Chance techniques, which were so revolutionary in the 50s when he began utilizing them. Personally, when I think of Cunningham, I have images of arrayed and partnered dancers using ballet vocabulary to communicate the randomness of the directions that has been given to them. I recognize the intelligence of the dancers and everyone involved to put together such an intellectual performance. Of course, he should also be recognized for his collaboration with brilliant composer John Cage (also credited for the ideas behind chance operations). The two artists were so mentally in synch when they were working together that the end result of their creations was genius. Cunningham's use of modern technology as it advanced is also incredibly impressive.
For all his achievement, I find this quote of his own to be most moving:
"You have to love dancing to stick to it. It gives you nothing back, no manuscripts to store away, no paintings to show on walls and maybe hang in museums, no poems to be printed and sold, nothing but that single fleeting moment when you feel alive. It is not for unsteady souls."
To me, this most clearly shows Cunningham as a moving, thinking, dancing human being. It is a beautiful way of describing the life and spirit that is the epitome of dance, and why we are brought together to move and be moved. Cunningham, certainly, was anything but an unsteady soul, but was bold and confident as he paved the way for many modern dancers to come.