Cunningham was born in Centralia, Washington in 1919, one of three sons of a lawyer father and a gadabout mother. He first studied dance with the vaudevillian Maud Barrett, then studied modern dance at Seattle’s Cornish School, where he met Cage; in 1939, at the Bennington School of the Dance at Mills College in Oakland, California, he met Martha Graham, whom he followed to New York. In the summer of 1953, while in residence at Black Mountain College in North Carolina, he formed the Merce Cunningham Dance Company, which remained his focus for the rest of his life. Two weeks before he died in July 2009 at age 90, he was in his studio with his dancers, working on something new.
NANCY DALVA IS THE MERCE CUNNINGHAM TRUST SCHOLAR IN RESIDENCE
©Nancy Dalva 2011
photo ©James Klosty
published in The Brooklyn Rail with the kind permission of The Brooklyn Academy of Music, which published this piece in slightly different form in SIDEBAR FROM BAM: The Complete Works