Cunningham, Merce: Avant-Garde Choreographer Dies at 90

July 27, 2009–Merce Cunningham, the famed avant-garde dancer and choreographer, has died at age 90.  A spokeswoman for the Merce Cunningham Dance Company, Leah Sandals, says Cunningham died on Sunday at his Manhattan home of natural causes.

In the 1980s, while living in New York, the Cunningham Dance Company gave a lot of pleasure, attending their concerts at City Center and Downtown at his studio.  I also had the pleasure of meeting Merce and his companion John Cage on numerous occasions in New York and in Europe.

His career spanned more than 60 years and some 150 works. He revolutionized dance by wiping out storytelling and even tossing coins or dice to determine steps. He said the use of chance helped free his imagination.

He worked closely with composer John Cage, his longtime collaborator and personal partner, who died in 1992, and with visual artists such as Jasper Johns and Robert Rauschenberg.

Though he had to use a wheelchair in later years, he remained an active artist. When he turned 90 in April, he premiered a long piece called “Nearly Ninety.”