February 3, 2009

Merce Cunningham Dance Company Performs Second Hand at the Williams Center Feb. 11

Footlights series presentation includes roundtable discussion, reception, and a lecture

The Merce Cunningham Dance Company will perform as part of the Williams Center for the Arts’ Footlights series at 8 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 11. The program includes the “rebuilt” version of Cunningham’s 1970 masterwork Second Hand and a set of improvisations created especially for the evening – a “happening” of dance and electronic music called a “MinEvent.”
Tickets are free for Lafayette students, $6 for students at LVAIC schools, $4 for faculty and staff, and $25 for the public. They can be obtained by calling the Williams Center box office at (610) 330-5009. The remaining performance in the series is Palladium Nights by Ballet Hispanico on March 25 for $25.

A roundtable discussion focusing on the collaboration between Cunningham, musician John Cage, and artist Robert Rauschenberg will take place at noon Feb. 11 in the Williams Center room 108. Robert S. Mattison, Marshall R. Metzgar Professor of Art History, will host the discussion with Laura Kuhn, director of the John Cage Trust, and David Vaughan, Merce Cunningham archivist. A “Meet the Dancers and Musicians” reception will take place at 4 p.m., and Kuhn will discuss “The Making of Second Hand” at 7 p.m.

Even at 90 years old, Merce Cunningham is considered to be one of the greatest living choreographers. He and his work have received more than 50 honors and awards including fellowships from the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation, the National Medal of Arts, and being named a “Living Legend” by the Library of Congress in 2000. The Merce Cunningham Dance Company has been in existence for 55 years.

With Second Hand, Cunningham invokes the figure of Socrates, imagining through dance the life experience of a master teacher among his acolytes. Intended as a dance to music by Erik Satie, Second Hand was instead set to music by John Cage when the Satie family denied performance rights. This clever and playful title winks at the Satie denial, while affirming the originality of the new dance, with Cage’s fresh score and powerful “color field” costumes by Jasper Johns. This intimate journey into Plato’s invocations of the teacher priest is a paradigm for the modern fusing of dance, music, and the visual arts.

The performance is supported by an American Masterworks grant from the National Endowment for the Arts, administered through the New England Foundation for the Arts. Educational and outreach activities are supported by a grant from the Dexter and Dorothy Baker Foundation.

The 2008–2009 Performance Series at Lafayette College is supported in part by gifts from Friends of the Williams Center for the Arts; by provisions of the Josephine Chidsey Williams Endowment, the J. Mahlon and Grace Buck Fund, the Croasdale Fund, the Class of ’73 Fund, the Alan and Wendy Pesky Artist-in-Residence Program, the James Bradley Fund, and the Ed Brunswick Jazz Fund; and by grants from the National Endowment for the Arts, Pennsylvania Council on the Arts, Mid Atlantic Arts Foundation, the Dexter and Dorothy Baker Foundation, and New England Foundation for the Arts. Special thanks to the F.M. Kirby Foundation for extraordinary support of the 25th anniversary season, and to Joan Moran and the Amaranth Foundation for support of the Ravi Shankar commission.

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