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The intensity of Cunningham’s style facilitates a slow-burn conversion experience: it takes time to appreciate, but once it hooks you, his work intoxicates. His dancers move against the background of Cage’s musical din with athletic concentration, dashing in swift, tiny steps, sailing in massive leaps across the stage, and executing one serene balance after another. They do not always look graceful, but the commitment to exactitude is riveting. Arms and legs cut geometric patterns in the air, torsos wildly arch and bend. When the dissonant movement aligns for a moment amid Cage’s roars of static, it is like something tender happening at a construction site. Cunningham took painstaking notes on paper before beginning a rehearsal, but left his notes behind when rehearsals began. In his studio, he simply used words to map movements onto his dancers, and those words were notoriously devoid of qualitative detail. He issued simple instructions: “Leg back!”—“Arm up!”—“Be bigger!” His dancers strayed as little as possible from literal executions of his commands, but each inevitably brought his or her own interpretation to the mechanics.

more from Lizzie Feidelson at n+1 here.

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