Review Of "Merce Cunningham: After The Arbitrary" By C. Noland

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Noland (French and comparative literature, Univ. of California, Irvine) has written numerous books, but this is her first on dance. Previous writings about Cunningham (1919–2009) have emphasized the chance operations in his dances. Noland highlights the centrality of "connections, bonds, and human relationships" (p. 2) in the choreography of this iconic 20th-century innovator. She does so by focusing on early dances, including Walkaround Time, Crises, and Roaratorio. Her writing establishes a fluid conversation between the theoretical foundations of Cunningham's methods and the kinesthetic lived complexity of the dancing itself. Noland is attentive to the importance of Cunningham's relationships with collaborators such as John Cage, Marcel Duchamp, and Robert Rauschenberg and illustrates ways the choreographer put such influences to use toward his own theatrical dramatic ends. She asserts that these ends contain and present relationships the observer then interprets. Since Cunningham's death, much previously unavailable material has been released to the public. Noland's research was rigorous, and she used videos, reviews, photographs, and choreographic notes in building her illuminating arguments. She also interviewed former Cunningham company dancers and attended reconstruction sessions, adding to the depth of her written analyses. Numerous well-selected photographs enhance the text. Summing Up: Essential. Graduate students, researchers, faculty, professionals.


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