Dance is an art form that isn’t well suited to newspapers, magazines or radio. And choreography isn’t like chopping onions where the steps can be written on a card and followed. But there is dance notation, though only a few know how to read it and it isn’t as exact as a recipe. Over time choreographers have essentially made up the steps of new dances and taught them to dancers. These realities are probably the guiding factors that led choreographer Merce Cunningham to declare that his dance company will die with him.
Okay, so this doesn’t mean that the dancers in the company will die but rather that the company will cease to exist. The 90 year old choreographer notes that dance companies go off track when the head guy dies and eventually what’s left is just a poor imitation. Because memory isn’t perfect, when we watch notable ballets such as, Swan Lake, the Nutcracker or the Firefly, what we see is dramatically different from how they were originally choreographed. And if you’re a choreographer you’ll take issue with that.
A trust will own the rights to Merce Cunningham’s dances which will then be licensed for specific performances. One imagines he is leaving very specific instructions. Fans of modern technology would most likely find this a very odd move on the choreographer’s part.
Today with our high definition recordings, digital media, CDs, DVDs, Blu-ray and USB storage, it would appear that digital media are the perfect devices for choreographers to store their works. Even the most miniscule muscle twitch can be zoomed in on for accuracy when it is replayed for new generations of dancers. And most likely digital will be the preferred storage for the trust anyway. It would seem that digital storage is a perfect dance partner here.
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