The Baryshnikov Arts Center (BAC) opens its fall 2021 digital season with In Conversation with Merce, a filmed presentation featuring a suite of solos and duets from Merce Cunningham’s Landrover, and two world premieres by Liz Gerring and Kyle Abraham created in response to the 1972 work. In Conversation with Merce, co-presented by Baryshnikov Arts Center and Merce Cunningham Trust, includes interviews with the choreographers and with Merce Cunningham Trust stager Jamie Scott and trustee Patricia Lent. In Conversation with Merce is free and available to watch on demand September 20–30 (Monday at 5pm EST until Thursday at 5pm EST) at bacnyc.org.
July 21, 1999 at New York State Theater at Lincoln Center, Mikhail Baryshnikov and Merce Cunningham premiered Occasion Piece, a duet that was actually two solos performed simultaneously. The music, For Marcel Duchamp, was a composition for prepared piano by John Cage. The set, originally made for the 1968 dance Walkaround Time, was conceived and supervised by Jasper Johns after Marcel Duchamp’s The Large Glass. Occasion Piece was made especially for a series of four performances at the Lincoln Center Festival called “Merce Cunningham: A Lifetime of Dance.” The Lighting Designer was Aaron Copp and Costume Designer was Suzanne Gallo. In 2010 after Cunningham’s death, Baryshnikov performed in Occasion Piece2 at the Roy and Edna Disney/CalArts Theater (REDCAT) in Los Angeles as part of benefit titled Monday Night With Merce Cunningham Dance Company. The music for Occasion Piece2 came from Cage’s “Song Books,” performed by Paul Berkolds, Jacqueline Bobak, and Mark Bobak.
In Conversation with Merce features excerpts from Landrover, a large-scale ensemble piece created by Cunningham at his Westbeth studio in Manhattan and premiering at Brooklyn Academy of Music (BAM) in 1972. Cunningham said that the image for the dance “was people moving in different landscapes. American perhaps in the sense that we move in our country—across varied spaces—with varied backgrounds.” This latest iteration of solos and duets is performed by Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater members Jacquelin Harris and Chalvar Monteiro. Both dancers performed in the Cunningham Trust’s Night of 100 Solos: A Centennial Event in April 2019. Staging for this project is by former Cunningham dancer Jamie Scott. The arrangement features a new score by John King and Anaïs Maviel and costumes by Reid Bartelme & Harriet Jung, based on the original design by Jasper Johns.
The program also includes two world premieres created in response to Landrover—a playful duet from Kyle Abraham and a duet by Liz Gerring that considers landscape and scale, both performed by members of their own companies. Abraham’s work is performed by Claude “CJ” Johnson and Donovan Reed. Gerring’s duet features an original score by her longtime collaborator Michael J. Schumacher and is performed by Mariah Anton and Cemiyon Barber. Costumes for both pieces are by Reid Bartelme & Harriet Jung. The premieres by Abraham and Gerring have been commissioned by BAC.
All works were filmed by Tatyana Tenenbaum in August 2021 at BAC’s John Cage & Merce Cunningham Studio.
Choreography: Merce Cunningham
Music: John King and Anaïs Maviel, 15/2
Costume Reconstruction (after the original design by Jasper Johns): Reid Bartelme & Harriet Jung
Staged by: Jamie Scott
Dancers: Jacquelin Harris and Chalvar Monteiro
Landrover (1972) by Merce Cunningham (c) Merce Cunningham Trust
World Premiere Choreographed by Liz Gerring
Composer: Michael J. Schumacher
Dancers: Mariah Anton and Cemiyon Barber
Rehearsal Assistant: Jamie Scott
Costumes: Reid Bartelme & Harriet Jung
World Premiere Choreographed by Kyle Abraham
Dancers: Claude “CJ” Johnson and Donovan Reed
Costumes: Reid Bartelme & Harriet Jung
Running time: 45 minutes.
To learn more about Kyle Abraham and his company A.I.M., please click HERE.
To learn more about Liz Gerring and her company, please click HERE.
To learn more about Jamie Scott, please click HERE.
By Jeff Slayton for LA Dance Chronicle.
Featured image: Landrover by Merce Cunningham – Dancers: Jacquelin Harris (brown costume) and Chalvar Monteiro (teal costume) – Photo by Maria Baranova