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Paige Cunningham Caldarella. Photo by Philip Dembinski

It's the last class of the spring semester, and Paige Cunningham Caldarella isn't letting any of her advanced contemporary students off the hook. After leading them through a familiar Merce Cunningham–style warm-up, full of bounces, twists and curves, she's thrown a tricky five-count across-the-floor phrase and a surprisingly floor-heavy adagio at the dancers. Now, near the end of class, she is reviewing a lengthy center combination set to a Nelly Furtado song. The phrase has all the hallmarks of Cunningham—torso twists atop extended legs, unexpected timing, direction changes—which means it's a challenge to execute well.

After watching the dancers go through the phrase a couple of times, Caldarella takes a moment to troubleshoot a few sticky spots and give a quick pep talk before having them do it again. "I know it's fast," she tells them. "I know it's a lot of moves. And you're hanging in there! But stick with the task of articulating everything—try to hyper-explore that."

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Dance Teachers Trending
Photo by Esta McKayle, courtesy of Dance Magazine archives

This past week, the University of California, Irvine, Etude Ensemble paid tribute to Donald McKayle, with a performance of Journey of the Heart: A Celebration of Works by Donald McKayle. The renowned choreographer created the student performance group in 1995 when he was an active professor in the dance program. The tribute included audience favorites, Death and Eros (2000), Crossing the Rubicon (2017) and Songs of the Disinherited (1972).

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Anna Chirescu (in pink) in Merce Cunningham's Place (1966). Photo by Charlotte Audureau, courtesy of Compagnie CNDC-Angers/Robert Swinston

As a dancer with Compagnie CNDC-Angers/Robert Swinston for the past four years, Anna Chirescu changed the way she approached taking on new challenges.

“Robert is an American who works in France, where the culture is very different. He says that French people talk and think much, but in America it's much more about the doing. He'll say, 'Don't talk. Don't think about it. Just do it. And by just doing it, you will understand.' So that's something that I try to apply to myself with Cunningham technique. Instead of thinking about it over and over again, I try to just do it and accept that it won't be perfect the first time or maybe the second time either."

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Merce Cunningham Dance Company performing TV Rerun at Westbeth in 1975. Photos by Jack Mitchell, courtesy of Walker Art Center

“Merce Cunningham: Common Time," an eight-gallery collection of stage sets, costumes, music, film and a series of live performances at the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis, continues through July 30. The exhibition highlights the prolific postmodern choreographer's many collaborations with artists such as John Cage, Jasper Johns, Robert Rauschenberg and Robert Morris.

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The Kathak Ensemble & Friends perform First Prayer of My Elders. Photo by Darial Sneed, courtesy of The Kathak Ensemble & Friends

In the 1970s, Janaki Patrik, artistic director of The Kathak Ensemble & Friends, studied with Merce Cunningham in New York City. She remembers the subtle way he would give a correction.

“I loved the technique. It was pure and spare, but when he taught the class, it was electric. To make a correction, he might just very lightly touch a body part. He didn't talk a lot, but you knew that because he had touched you, 'Oh that part needs a lot of attention! Why did he touch it?' And it made you think critically."

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Jacob’s Pillow Dance Interactive

Check out rare footage filmed at Jacob’s Pillow, America’s longest running dance festival, dating as far back as the 1930s. From the celebration of the male dancer in Ted Shawn’s Men Dancers to the present-day tap dance pyrotechnics of Dorrance Dance, this is a diverse collection you can rarely find in one location. danceinteractive.jacobspillow.org

A screenshot of 3e Scène

3e Scène

Immerse yourself in the heart of Paris through Paris Opéra Ballet’s virtual arts platform 3e Scène (3rd Stage). Its numerous videos feature original work by choreographers, visual artists, filmmakers, photographers, writers and musicians, often showcasing the company dancers or the Palais Garnier opera house. New content is uploaded periodically. operadeparis.fr/en/3e-scene

New York Public Library’s Jerome Robbins Dance Division Audio and Moving Image Archive

The New York Public Library has a gold mine of more than 25,000 film and video titles, where you can discover dance treasures like the career highlights of Mikhail Baryshnikov, the choreographic investigations of game changers like Yvonne Rainer, archival footage of the legendary Denishawn dance school and many performances by the Merce Cunningham Dance Company. digitalcollections.nypl.org/dancevideo

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Choreographer and director Camille A. Brown (DT, August 2015) has been awarded the 2016 Jacob’s Pillow Dance Award. In addition to an unrestricted $25,000 cash prize, the honor comes with a residency and performing engagement at the 2017 Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival.

The Jacob’s Pillow Dance Award was created in 2007. Previous awardees include Merce Cunningham, Michelle Dorrance (DT, May 2012) and Kyle Abraham.

Photo by Matt Murphy

Don't miss a single issue of Dance Teacher.

Daniel Madoff and Andrea Weber in CRWDSPCR (1993)

In our January issue's History: Lesson Plan, we learn about Merce Cunningham, the creator of chance dance.

Cunningham’s CRWDSPCR (1993) was created with DanceForms software, a computer program that allowed him to devise movement. The nonstop, frenetic activity recalls Grand Central Terminal at rush hour.

To learn more about this amazing artist, subscribe to Dance Teacher.

Photo by Anna Finke, courtesy of the Merce Cunningham Trust; video courtesy of the Merce Cunningham Trust

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