Celebrating Merce Cunningham at the Smith College Art Museum

Brigit McDannell '18

Sports Editor

Assistant Professor Angie Hauser’s History of Dance and Aesthetics class will present a night of dance and collaboration at the Smith College Museum of Art at 2 p.m. on April 28 and 6:45 p.m. on May 8. The performance event will celebrate the choreographic work of Merce Cunningham, an American modern dancer and choreographer known for his artistic partnership and use of chance procedures in his work.

Cunningham’s artistic endeavors were prolific. He began his career in 1963 and continued dancing throughout his life until he passed away in 2009. He worked with fellow artists such as dancer Maratha Graham, post-modernist composer John Cage and pop artist Robert Rauschenberg.

Hauser’s class has spent the entire semester studying Cunningham’s work – rehearsing his technique, watching his pieces, deconstructing his artistic philosophy and putting his work into context.

“This class gives the students a chance to learn and practice the dance technique that choreographer Merce Cunningham developed over his more than 60 year career,” professor Hauser said. “We have also spent time researching, writing about and discussing the context in which Cunningham was making work, namely the New York City art and performance world from the mid 20th century till his death in 2009.”

The performance at the museum will be a compilation of Cunningham’s dance phrases. It was choreographed and directed by Hauser, using the museum space as an additional “character.” Students will be dancing down the corridors and up and down the stairs, accompanied by the live music of Mike Vargas. Dancers will plié, leap and roll throughout the space wearing various hues of oranges and red, vivid colors to contrast with the gray museum walls.

“The dance work that we made for the museum is a great chance for the students and the Smith community to get a taste of performance in a space that was traditionally intended for static artwork,” said Hauser. “For me, the museum space brings new challenges and energy to the dance, and the dance in turn makes transparent aspects of the museum that people don’t tend to notice.”