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Merce Cunningham Centennial: Variations V

Anthology Film Archives

32 2nd Ave, New York, NY 10003

2019 marks the centennial of Merce Cunningham’s birth, providing an occasion to reflect on the choreographer’s profound influence. As part of the year-long global celebrations, EAI and Anthology Film Archives are partnering on a series focused on Cunningham’s films and videos, calling attention to the presence of the moving image throughout his career. This series will be inaugurated with a rare cinema screening of Variations V (1966), one of Cunningham’s earliest filmed dances.

Initially performed in 1965, Variations V realized a remarkable multi-media collage of stark movement, sound, electronic engineering, and striking film and television images. A key feature of the dance was the presence of twelve antennae poles, built by Robert Moog, that released sounds whenever a dancer was in proximity. Bell Labs research scientist Billy Kluver contributed a set of photocells also designed to trigger sounds – the sources of which were supervised by John Cage, David Tudor, and Gordon Mumma. The eerie oscillations and tones emanating from Space Age-era gadgetry, along with Stan VanDerBeek and Nam June Paik’s film and video manipulations, provide a striking counterpoint to the actions of Cunningham and his dancers. This filmed version from 1966 was staged in the NDR television studio in Hamburg, Germany.

Dancer, critic, and choreographer Gus Solomons, Jr., who performed in Variations V and appears in the film, will be here in person for an introduction and Q&A.

Presented in collaboration with the Merce Cunningham Trust.