Merce Cunningham Centennial at the Barbican

Sixteen Dances for Soloist and Company of Three (1952) Photo by Gerda Peterich

As part of the official global celebration of the Merce Cunningham Centennial, the Barbican presents the world premiere and Barbican co-production of Night of 100 Solos: A Centennial Event, in the Barbican Theatre; the UK premiere and Barbican co-production of Ferran Carvajal and Trevor Carlson’s Not a moment too soon in Silk Street Theatre; and If the Dancer Dances, directed by Maia Wechsler, in Barbican Cinema 2.

In Night of 100 Solos at the Barbican, 25 dancers perform a unique collection of 100 solos choreographed by Cunningham over the course of his career, with live music and bespoke set design.

Not a moment too soon is a solo performance by Trevor Carlson, former Executive Director of the Merce Cunningham Dance Company, and reflects on the years he spent as companion and close friend to the choreographer, offering a rare insight into the final days of a master.

Maia Wechsler’s documentary film If the Dancer Dances shows Stephen Petronio Company and former members of the Merce Cunningham Dance Company rehearsing Cunningham’s RainForest (1968.)

Rehearsals for Night of 100 Solos. Photo by Stephen Wright
Rehearsals for Night of 100 Solos. Photo by Stephen Wright

Ferran Carvajal/Trevor Carlson – Not a moment too soon

In 2001, in a dressing room in Australia, Cunningham stared at his reflection while filming himself on his newly acquired camcorder, a device he went on to use prolifically. Interested in the fleeting nature of things, he uttered the words: ‘not a moment too soon’.

Taking this recording as a starting point, Carlson’s performance is a tapestry of video, text, music and movement layered with previously unseen footage of Cunningham. As Carlson weaves in and around projection panels hung onstage, he presents a visual and oral history of their adventures through recollections of precious moments spent together. A pilgrimage into memory, the dream-like solo shifts between monologues, readings and intimate clips of the iconic artist at work and at play. Tapping into key periods of Cunningham’s later life, this is a touching farewell to a loved one.

To coincide with the BBC and One Dance UK’s celebration of dance entitled #DancePassion, the Barbican live streams Not a moment too soon on Friday 5 April at 7.45pm. The show will be performed Thursday 4–Saturday 6 April.

Ferran Carvajal/Trevor Carlson – Not a moment too soon. Photo by Yoana Miguel
Ferran Carvajal/Trevor Carlson – Not a moment too soon. Photo by Yoana Miguel

Merce Cunningham Trust – Night of 100 Solos: A Centennial Event

In Night of 100 Solos, the largest Cunningham Event ever conceived, 75 dancers will be distributed across three venues: the Barbican; BAM in New York City and UCLA’s Center for the Art of Performance in Los Angeles. On each of these stages, 25 dancers will perform a unique collection of 100 solos Cunningham choreographed over the course of his career, with live music and a bespoke set design. Nearly half of Cunningham’s former company members participate in the creation of this Event, taking place on what would have been his 100th birthday, led at the Barbican by Londoner Daniel Squire. Honouring Cunningham’s long relationship with the Barbican, the London Event features solos from each world or European premiere previously performed in the Barbican Theatre.

The dancers are Luke AhmetHarry AlexanderElly BraundSiobhan DaviesInés DepauwDaphne FernbergerJonathan GoddardAsha GraciaThomasin GülgeçFrancesca HaywardHannah Kidd,Catherine LeGrandSophie MartinEstela MerlosMbulelo NdabediMichael NunnRowan ParkerElse RaymondJoseph SissensBeatriz Stix-BrunellToke StrandbyAsha ThomasBilly TrevittLuc Verbitzky, and Ben Warbis.

Rehearsals for Night of 100 Solos. Photo by Stephen Wright
Rehearsals for Night of 100 Solos. Photo by Stephen Wright

Music Coordinator Christian Wolff works with musicians Mira BenjaminJohn LelyAnton Lukoszevieze, andChristian Marclay to provide the score. The performance features Shadows Cast by Readymades, a black-and-white video collage that the late Richard Hamilton made for a Cunningham performance at the Barbican in 2005. The video draws on the works of Marcel Duchamp, whose groundbreaking ideas inspired Cunningham, Cage, and Hamilton.

This exceptional programme celebrates the vibrant legacy of an artist whose unparalleled body of work helped to drive the evolution of the American avant-garde and expanded the frontiers of contemporary visual and performance arts.

The event takes place on 16th of April and all three parts of the Event – the performances in London, New York and LA – will be live streamed.

Rehearsals for Night of 100 Solos. Photo by Stephen Wright
Rehearsals for Night of 100 Solos. Photo by Stephen Wright

Merce Cunningham Centennial – If the Dancer Dances + ScreenTalk

If the Dancer Dances is a feature documentary by former Cunningham dancer Lise Friedman and director Maia Wechsler.

Three former members of the Merce Cunningham Dance Company teach Cunningham’s iconic 1968 RainForest to dancers from Stephen Petronio Company, who have just twelve days over three weeks to work with the original stagers, learning new choreography and finding the courage to master an entirely new movement style. It reveals the dancers’ often intensely personal challenges, and what it takes to keep a dance alive.

Following the screening, Lise Friedman and Maia Wechsler will be in conversation with Trevor Carlson. It will be held on Saturday 6 April

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