Historical Project: Merce Cunningham’s MinEvents

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, Cunningham expanded the frontiers of dance and contemporary visual and performing arts.

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Photo: Merce Cunningham in Changeling (1957) by Richard Rutledge

MinEvents 2017

A MinEvent is an uninterrupted sequence of excerpts drawn from the work of Merce Cunningham.  Each MinEvent is unique, and is designed to suit the particular space in which it is presented. Trinity Laban MinEvents are arranged and staged by Daniel Squire expressly for the dancers of Trinity Laban. Daniel said:

“This is the third year in a row for which I have created and staged four MinEvents using Merce Cunningham’s choreography for Trinity Laban. Each year, several sections have been pulled from various works ranging from the 1958 to 2002. This year we will include one section which appeared in Trinity Laban MinEvents 1, 2, 3 & 4 in 2015: this is from un jour ou deux, which was originally performed by the Paris Opera Ballet. The sections will be shuffled differently for each of the four performances, making each one unique. Some sections will be double – or triple – cast within each work, though all fourteen dancers will appear in each MinEvent.

Music is being composed and will be performed by Trinity Laban students; the décor is by Sarah Batey, a student from UCL, Slade School of Fine Art. I am very much looking forward to seeing Merce’s work and in this case a collaboration with the musician-composers, the artist, lighting designer, and costume designer to create four works never before seen but rather recontextualising extant choreography by Merce Cunningham.”

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Photo: Daniel Squire by Ed Chappell. Interscape (2000) by Merce Cunningham: décor & costumes by Robert Rauschenberg

Second year student Jon Hope is one of the dancers performing in the MinEvents, he said:

“Working with Daniel means that every day is an adventure in itself. He teaches us material at a fast pace and has high expectations of our technical ability. This has made me aware that we must always strive to improve and never settle with what is safe or comfortable. In the choreography we use chance procedure which challenges our minds as we cannot rely on memorising the movement; each time it’s different. We have to learn all the possible outcomes and be ready to do any one of them when the opportunity arises. This way of creating ever-changing dance really intrigues me.

It’s great to have such an intensive time with one technique, one teacher and one piece. It allows for full focus, quick improvement and it’s refreshing to work with a different group of people than I usually do.

To get a full experience of MinEvents I urge the audience to keep a keen eye on the details, to look for the relationships between the dancers and movement, and to enjoy the co-existence of the dance, the sound and the set. Expect to see a new combination of extracts from Events created by Cunningham in a different setting and in a different time.”

Next week we delve into the process of recreating an extract from Hofesh Shechter’s Sun.

For more information and to book tickets visit our Events page.

Alice White

Graduate Intern – Press & PR

Trinity Laban’s Celebrated Historical Project 2017

Our second year undergraduate students will perform works by choreographers who have made a significant contribution to the development of contemporary dance in the 20th and 21st centuries.

During Historical Project, students are immersed in an intensive period of study. As well as restaging the dance pieces, students learn about the artistic, historical and cultural contexts in which they were originally created and performed. The result is an experience which integrates theory and practice, and which exposes students both physically and intellectually to important dance works of the 20th and 21st centuries.

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Image: Highland Fling, Matthew Bourne, Historical Project 2016

Final year student Orion Hart (pictured above) performed in the restaging of Matthew Bourne’s The Highland Fling in last year’s programme. He commented:

“The Historical Project was one of the highlights from my whole time at Trinity Laban. It challenged me to discover new aspects of myself as a performer, and allowed me to go beyond what I thought I could achieve. If I could go back and do it all again I would!”

This year, students will be staging seminal works by:

Merce Cunningham: MinEvents 9, 10, 11 & 12 arranged and staged by Daniel Squire

Martha Graham: Panorama (1935) restaged and directed by Jacqueline Bulnes

Dore Hoyer: Affectos Humanos (1962) reconstructed and staged by Martin Nachbar

Hofesh Shechter: Sun – An Extract (2013) arranged and staged by Winifred Burnet-Smith, Sam Coren & Phil Hulford

Rudolf Laban: Drumstick re-imagined, staged and arranged by Alison Curtis-Jones

Martin Nachbar commented:

“It is always a joy and challenge to teach students to approach these dances and reconstruct them with the idea of meeting them rather than working on looking exactly like the original.”

Alumna Zoe Bishop performed in an extract of Sasha WaltzContinu titled Women, as part of Historical Project 2014. Zoe said:

“I found the process of learning the repertoire to be most inspiring as company dancer Mata Saka really took us on a creative journey over the 3 weeks. It allowed us to gain rich insight into the feel of the work.

I feel that Historical Project provides the first real opportunity to perform at a professional level within the undergraduate course. This opportunity is invaluable as it exposes the students to different styles of dance within the Contemporary Dance bracket, whilst working with professionals in the industry. It also provides the chance to work and dance with fellow students we may not have previously danced with and ultimately allows the students to perform repertoire of a professional level.”

Check back next week to follow the process of this year’s works.

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Image: Women, Sasha Waltz, Historical Project 2014

For more information and to book tickets visit our Events page.

Alice White

Graduate Intern – Press & PR