July 28, 2009

Dance great Merce Cunningham dead at 90

Dancer and influential choreographer Merce Cunningham has died at his home in New York, the Cunningham Dance Foundation announced. He was 90.

The cause of Cunningham's death Sunday night was not disclosed.

The New York Times said the Centralia, Wash., native, who enjoyed a career that spanned nearly seven decades, is regarded as a dance icon on the same level as Isadora Duncan, Serge Diaghilev, Martha Graham, Jerome Robbins and George Balanchine.

Among the places Cunningham studied dance were the Cornish School in Seattle and the American Ballet Theater in New York. He began presenting his own choreographed pieces in 1942 and continued to created new works and teach until this year, the Times said.

Much of his work from the 1950s onward was achieved in collaboration with his longtime companion, the composer John Cage, who died in 1992.

The Merce Cunningham Dance Company began performances in 1953 with Cunningham appearing in most until 1989 when he turned 70, the newspaper noted.

You have to love dancing to stick to it, Cunningham once wrote. It gives you nothing back, no manuscripts to store away, no paintings to show on walls and maybe hang in museums, no poems to be printed and sold, nothing but that single fleeting moment when you feel alive.