Biographical/historical: Merce Cunningham (1919-2009) was an American choreographer, dancer and founder of the Merce Cunningham Dance Company, created in 1953 at Black Mountain College, and closed in 2011. In 1939 he joined the Martha Graham company and for the next six years was one of her leading performers. During this time he also studied ballet at the School of American Ballet. In 1942 he gave a recital of his own choreography at Bennington College using music by John Cage and in 1944 he and Cage gave a joint concert at the Humphrey-Weidman Studio Theater in New York. Cage, Cunningham's life partner, was also to become his musical collaborator and adviser until his death. As a central figure in the American avant-garde, Cunningham worked with leading figures from the art world including Robert Rauschenberg (resident designer 1954–64), Andy Warhol, Frank Stella, and Jasper Johns. Throughout his career Cunningham experimented with new creative methods. He was the first major choreographer to use computer technology, creating movement sequences on screen before setting them on his dancers, and thus facilitating an increasing complexity of action and stage patterning. In 1991 he helped develop the choreographic computer software Life Forms. His 1999 work BIPED was his first digital dance, in which computer-generated images, including dancing figures, were projected onto the stage to create a perspective-altering interaction with the live performers.
Citation/reference: Forms part of the Merce Cunningham archive.