Merce Cunningham: 65 Years

Posted on November 16, 2012 by

By David Vaughan, edited by Melissa Harris and Trevor Carlson
App for iPad, Aperture 
August 2012

No matter how strongly you recommend that your students read about the Merce Cunningham Dance Company, the experience will never be as compelling as actually viewing the dances or listening to Cunningham himself speak, which is what you get with Merce Cunningham: 65 Years, an iPad app developed by David Vaughan in conjunction with Aperture and the Cunningham Dance Foundation. The app embellishes Vaughan’s commemorative book Merce Cunningham: Fifty Years (1997, Aperture) with more than 40 video clips, 200 photographs and a selection of journal entries, essays, choreographic notes, costume sketches and drawings.

Vaughan, archivist for the MCDC for over 50 years, documents Cunningham’s dance life from the early days in the 1930s through the final performance of the MCDC’s two-year Legacy Tour, following the choreographer’s death in 2009. The text records almost every work that was presented and the major events in the company’s history. Most compelling are the media features—interviews, videos, drawings and photographs—sprinkled throughout. For instance, one can watch Cunningham describe the time he danced for Helen Keller in a class led by Martha Graham (a clip from the online video series “Mondays with Merce”), or compare an excerpt of a Cunningham piece created on the computer software LifeForms with the finished work performed onstage. The video clips of performance excerpts, however, are only 15 seconds—too brief to thoroughly analyze each piece—but viewers can see the progression of Cunningham’s work throughout his career. Admiring the videos and photographs alone—even without the text—a dancer could get lost in the app for hours.

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