Monday, February 6, 2023

In Memory: Remembering Merce Cunningham

August 2, 2009 by  
Filed under Uncategorized

Merce in Memory of


In Memory of the Pioneer, the Artist, the Legend

Merce Cunningham

1919 – 2009

Merce Cunningham will be remembered not just as a choreographer or dancer, but as an innovator, a pioneer,  an artist and a legend even within his own time.  The invaluable contributions that he has given to the dance community are limitless and will continue to impact us now and many generations to come.
Mr. Cunningham will greatly be missed; thus, iDANZ and the iDANZ family have started a memory page of heartfelt memories and condolences in honor of the legendary, Merce Cunningham.  If you wish to add and personal reflections, your comments are welcomed.


Merce in rehearsal with Carolyn Brown, London, England, July 27, 1964 “I am filled with great sorrow upon the loss of dear Merce.  We all adored him.  Merce and I were transports from the West Coast and shared a connection through our roots in the Pacific Northwest.  Our houses were accustomed to speaking old Chinook jargon, a dialect of the Indian sea traders in Washington.  It’s based largely on Nootka which is used as a lingua franca from Alaska to Oregon.  For me, Merce will always be a “Tillicum,” which translates as ‘old friend.’” -Trisha Brown, Choreographer


“Merce was an artistic maverick and the gentlest of geniuses. We have lost a great man and a great artist, but we celebrate his extraordinary life,” Judith Fishman, Cunningham Dance Foundation.

Merce Cunningham and Jean Erdman, 1942, Photo by Barbara Morgan“Merce Cunningham was a mentor to the world’s creative community. His legacy includes multiple generations of artists who have been and continue to be inspired by his trailblazing interrogation of the relationship between choreography, music, and the visual arts. On a personal level, I shall miss his devilish sense of humor, his sensitivity, and his supreme patience. Watching his art was always a learning experience for me, as for so many other devoted fans and friends.” -Joseph V. Melillo, BAM


” . . . thank you, Mr. Cunningham.  You are and always
will  be a national treasure to us.”
-Candice Rox, Senior Editor, iDANZ.
Click here to read iDANZ Commentary, The Dance Community Mourns,
on the passing of Merce Cunningham.

Merce Cunningham, photography by Marvin SilverI was privileged to work with Merce and the Merce Cunningham Dance Company for several years.  Merce was an inspiration in so many ways.  I have a sign above my desk that I made after one of his interviews.  He said, “You can say no and that ends it.  If you say yes, you may learn something.”  I try to take it to heart, and smile when I think of him saying that so matter-of-factly, but with a twinkle in his eye.” -Helene Davis, Helene Davis Public Relations

“The influence of Merce Cunningham has found its way into so many of the performances that have graced our stage.  We at Dance Theater Workshop are in awe of his rich legacy.  He was always ahead of the times, and we will remember the sharp wit, the unending curiosity, and the high artistic ideals of his brilliant choreographic vision.  We know his impact will continue to live on in the work of the artists who’ve been touched by his presence.”
“Merce Cunningham is a very important part of the modern dance dynasty.  His death is very saddening and a great loss to the modern dance community.  My heart goes out to the Cunningham dancers, the Foundation, and his family and friends. He will truly be missed.” -Candice Rox, Senior Editor, iDANZ



 -DTW, Dance Theater Workshop



“The first modern class I ever took was a Cunningham based technique class.  It was in college, and it was what sparked my leaning towards modern dance.  Later, I became aware of Merce’s legacy through books and film.  When I came to New York I saw the Cunningham Company perform at BAM.  It was their collaboration with Sigur Ros and Radiohead, and I remember thinking how cool it was that even in his 80’s Cunningham was still edgy and pushing the boundaries of technology.  At the beginning of that performance, Merce Cunningham himself came out on stage to roll the dice to determine factors in the piece.  That was the only real live glimpse I ever got of Merce and it left an impression.  It is safe to say that the impression that Merce Cunningham left on dance, and art, and the world, is huge, and will last.” -Julie Fotheringham, Critic, iDANZ

More Memories of Merce: Watch Videos on iDANZ

Mondays with Merce Demo Monday’s with Merce Demonstration Video go to to see full series visit Merce Cunningham–Beach Birds 1 Merce Cunningham Dance Company Dancers in Beach Birds. For more information visit
Merce Cunningham–The Coast Zone Excerpt from the film The Collaborators: Cage, Cunningham, Rauschenberg. For more information, visit Merce Cunninghams Working Process Acclaimed choreographer Merce Cunningham (1919-2009) was a leading figure in dance for more than half a century. His work embraced critical…

“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.” -Merce Cunningham, photo and quote from

Merce Cunningham Photo by Annie Leibovitz


The Cunningham Dance Foundation mourns the passing of Merce Cunningham. In lieu of flowers or acknowledgments, it is requested that contributions be made to the
Legacy Plan


for the preservation of Merce’s work.
iDANZ would like to extend our heartfelt condolences to the Cunningham family, the dancers, and the Cunningham Dance Foundation for this great loss.  Mr. Cunningham will surely be missed. To read a biography of Mr. Cunningham and a background of his company, Merce Cunningham Dance, please visit


Other links:Merce Cunningham Obituary by Alastair MacCaulay in New York Times

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