Mondays With Merce: The Interviews, 2008-07-23; 2008-07-30; 2008-08-06

More Details Cite This Item

Library division & collection with this item:

View this item elsewhere:

Mondays With Merce: The Interviews, 2008-07-23; 2008-07-30; 2008-08-06
Cunningham, Merce (Creator)
Cunningham, Merce (Interviewee)

Merce Cunningham Video Archive

Dates / Origin
Date Created: 2008-07-23 - 2008-08-06
Table of Contents
REEL 1 (1st digital file): The first interview begins with a discussion of sound, music, and costumes/decor in Cunningham's works. In answering, he also speaks about his collaborative processes with composers John Cage and Stuart Dempster, as well as artist Leonardo Drew. The talk then shifts to a consideration of the ways in which dancers serve multiple functions within Cunningham's pieces. (9:22) This is followed by a discussion of the origins, inspirations and development of the piece "Ocean", (12:20) and those of "SoundDance". (21:30) This leads into a consideration of ways to create drama in works that don't contain any obvious plot. (28:45) Cunningham is then asked about the qualities he looks for in selecting new dancers for his company and the routines he follows in preparing to choreograph and perform a dance piece. (31:20) Cunningham's recurring use of un-predetermined 'chance operations' in his choreography is then discussed. (34:45) The use of stage space to imply passages of distance and time. (39:40) Following this, Cunningham speaks about the ways in which his older repertory pieces are reworked and refreshed in revival, as well as his responses when watching the younger dancers in his company recreate roles that he himself once danced. (41:57) The interviewer then asks Cunningham to talk about dancers he admired when he was a young dancer, and identifies a Cunningham 'philosophy'. (49:15) Discussion of Cunningham's creative partnership with artist Jasper Johns leads into further musings on stage costuming and design. (52:40) Dance's relation to other art forms and differences in dance training between Cunningham's youth and the present time are considered (56:00), and the interview closes with a brief exploration of the general structure of a Cunningham work. (57:15). REEL 2 (2nd digital file): The interviewer's first several questions were generated by soliciting a single question each from various members of the Merce Cunningham Dance Company dance corps. The first question asks about Cunningham's casting process for each piece and the ways in which he sees the dancers during rehearsal and while creating choreography. Building off of this question, the next asks Cunningham to reflect on how his dancers change over time, as they continue with the company and begin to age. (4:10) Cunningham is asked to consider dancers, both outside of his company and within it, whom he has viewed as risk takers. His answer primarily centers on former MCDC dancer Victoria Finlayson. (6:38) The natural world and its influence on his creativity. (10:30) Cunningham discusses his memories of seeing Fanny Brice onstage and discusses the presence of wit and drama in his work. (12:32) The strengths and weaknesses of creating each element of a performance piece in isolation from the other elements. (17:07) How Cunningham maintains his focus when creating. (22:58) Memories of George Balanchine, Jerome Robbins, Sir Frederick Ashton and Martha Graham. (24:42) The experience of working on choreography with dance corps which were not his own. (35:00) Working with Mikhail Baryshnikov to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the MCDC. (52:00) The role of silence and speed in dance (56:00) The 2nd interview concludes with a consideration of the "engagement of the mind" in Cunningham's technique. REEL 3 (3rd digital file) The third interview is held at the MCDC's Westbeth studio, which the company has had since the early 1970s. Cunningham begins the interview by discussing the building's history. He then speaks about the MCDC's longtime musical accompanist, Pat Richter, as well as the role of rhythm in dance. (7:00) His early love of vaudeville music and Fred Astaire, and his childhood introduction to the piano and tap dancing, as longtime influences on his work. (15:36) His introduction to John Cage (20:03) Cunningham technique and the backstory of its development through a discussion of MC's early years in New York. (23:30)
Library locations
Jerome Robbins Dance Division
Shelf locator: *MGZIDF 3741
Ocean (Choreographic work : Cunningham)
Sounddance (Choreographic work : Cunningham)
Dance -- United States -- History
Modern dance
Content: Title provided by cataloger, based on original container label
Content: Interview was conducted over three succeeding weeks/dates and consists of three separate digital files for viewing, as follows: Reel 1, 7/23/08, 62 min.; Reel 2, 7/30/08, 63 min.; Reel 3, 8/06/08, 40 min. Note that footage has timecode not directly related to the runtime of each digital file, and that each interview segment ends abruptly.
Performers: Merce Cunningham, interviewee; unknown interviewer [Nancy Dalva?].
Venue: Recorded July 23, 2008, July 30, 2008 and August 6, 2008. New York City.
Acquisition: Gift; Merce Cunningham Dance Foundation, 2011-2012.
Physical Description
Extent: 1 videodisc (DVD) (165 min.) : sound, color ; 4 3/4 in.
Three interviews conducted with Merce Cunningham to provide material for the Mondays With Merce series of online webisodes. This summary is broken down by reel. Each reel represents one digital file, summarized in chronological order by interview date.
Type of Resource
Moving image
RLIN/OCLC: 922889657
NYPL catalog ID (B-number): b20809325
Universal Unique Identifier (UUID): 2e8a02d0-a9af-0133-3ca1-60f81dd2b63c
Rights Statement
This item is protected by copyright and/or related rights. You are free to use this Item in any way that is permitted by the copyright and related rights legislation that applies to your use. For other uses you need to obtain permission from the rights-holder(s).

Item timeline of events

  • 2008: Created (Approximate)
  • 2023: Found by you!
  • 2024

MLA Format

Jerome Robbins Dance Division, The New York Public Library. "Mondays With Merce" The New York Public Library Digital Collections. 2008 - 2008.

Chicago/Turabian Format

Jerome Robbins Dance Division, The New York Public Library. "Mondays With Merce" New York Public Library Digital Collections. Accessed September 22, 2023.

APA Format

Jerome Robbins Dance Division, The New York Public Library. (2008 - 2008). Mondays With Merce Retrieved from

Wikipedia Citation

<ref name=NYPL>{{cite web | url= | title= (moving image) Mondays With Merce, (2008 - 2008)|author=Digital Collections, The New York Public Library |accessdate=September 22, 2023 |publisher=The New York Public Library, Astor, Lenox, and Tilden Foundations}}</ref>

Mondays With Merce