Merce Cunningham Dance Company, CRWDSPCER / XOVER / Split Sides

Review in Issue 21-1 | Spring 2009

In 1993’s CRWDSPCER hive-like behaviour and androgyny overtakes the dancers. Set to what sounds suspiciously like music from an 80s computer game, the dancers are a machine with an unknown purpose; gliding insects performing choreographed confusion.

The next piece, and a new co-commission for this year’s BITE festival, is XOVER – probably the weakest piece of the night, yet in some ways, the most expressive of Cunningham’s oeuvre. The movement is slower and more pronounced, the music two John Cage works from 1958, and the costumes are simple white pieces designed by Robert Rauschenberg. But despite such heritage, something doesn’t quite gel. The audience aren’t transported to the places to which Cunningham can so often lead.

As if to remind us how it’s done, the final piece of the night, Split Sides, is utter magic.

A BITE commission from 2004, the conceit of the piece is that there are two sets of lighting, décor, choreography, music and costume, and the order of each of these different elements is determined by throwing dice before the piece begins. In less skilful hands, such a technique could be gimmicky, but here, where each of the ten distinct elements are so strong (special note must be made of the music from Sigur Rós and Radiohead), we could probably encounter each in a fixed sequence and still be transfixed.

Over the last 70 years, Merce Cunningham has rightly garnered monumental status in the worlds of dance and performance. It will be a sad day when the fear accompanying each of his visits to London – that it will be his last – becomes a reality.

Presenting Artists
Date Seen
  1. Oct 2008

This article in the magazine

Issue 21-1
p. 29