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In the VORTEX with Cage and Cunningham

Posted by on Thursday, March 1, 2012 in Articles, Featured, Spring 2012.

Cage and Cunningham
Dancer and choreographer Merce Cunningham, left, with composer John Cage

From John Cage aficionados to new listeners, surprises are in store when Blair’s percussion ensemble VORTEX joins with former dancers of the Merce Cunningham Dance Company and Nashville’s Company Rose on Sunday, April 1. The two-hour production will feature works spanning four and a half decades, including a presentation of Cunningham choreography in a 30-minute “MinEvent” with the percussion students of VORTEX.

“With the closure of the company on December 31, any collaborative performance of John Cage’s music with Cunningham-trained dancers is a rare event,” Artistic Director Michael Holland says. “To put this in perspective, this is comparable to having Nijinsky’s dancers from the Ballet Russe on hand for a student performance of the Rite of Spring. One cannot understand Cage without taking into account the artistic relationship with Cunningham. These are giants who changed the landscape of art and waited for the world to catch up to them.”

Nashville’s Company Rose will restage the lost Cage work Fads and Fancies in the Academy. Created by Cage and 1940s modern dance pioneer Marian Van Tuyl, this barely known piece was originally subtitled by Cage and Van Tuyl as A Gentle Satire on Progressive Education. For the first time since the work was created, Company Rose and VORTEX will reunite Cage’s rhapsodic program music with choreography created by Marsha Barsky and Erin Law and informed by Van Tuyl’s original work. The new staging was made possible by Michael Holland’s recent uncovering of archival film footage and notes from Van Tuyl’s work with Cage.

This retrospective concert is one of the largest in the nation and will involve students and faculty from across the campus in addition to guest artists in Nashville. Music, art, theater, dance and film studies are pooling talents and resources to make this a once-in-a-lifetime event. And at the center of everything are the students of VORTEX: Alexander Carter, Daniel Closser, Robby Hill, Orion Phillips, Lucas Polson, Kevin Rilling, Ian Shaw, Tarique Shotwell, Shelby Flowers, Valerie Hsu, Revanth Sanne, Olivia Smith, Rami Grossman and Daniel Corona.

None of this would be possible without the support of the John Cage Trust, the Merce Cunningham Dance Company, the Other Minds Archive in San Francisco, and the scholarly assistance of Holling Smith-Borne, director of the Anne Potter Wilson Music Library.

The project is funded by a Curb Creative Campus Initiative Grant with additional support from Mark Wait, dean, Blair School of Music; Frank Wcislo, dean of The Martha Rivers Ingram Commons at Vanderbilt; Sandra Stahl, Office of the Dean of Students; and JoEl Logiudice, Office of Creative Engagement. Admission is free.

Planned events include:

Thursday, March 29, at 3 p.m., Turner Recital Hall

A panel featuring Merce Cunningham Dance Company Assistant Director of Choreography Jennifer Goggans with Blair’s Michael Slayton, Joy Calico and Michael Holland in a discussion on form, composition and creativity in the collaborative works of John Cage and Merce Cunningham.

March 29 and 30

Master classes in Cunningham movement with Jennifer Goggans

Sunday, April 1, 1:30-5 p.m., Blair Choral Rehearsal Hall

Mini-Cage symposium organized by Joy Calico, associate professor of musicology, showcasing Cage’s work in various media (music, performance art and film). It features musicologist David W. Patterson, performance artist Amelia Winger-Bearskin, assistant professor of art, and Jonathan Rattner, assistant professor of film studies, who will screen and discuss some of Cage’s avant-garde film projects.

Sunday, April 1, Ingram Hall

7:00 p.m. Cage Musicircus in Ingram Lobby and Plaza

7:40 p.m. Pre-concert talk with Professor Robert Fry

8:00 p.m. Blair Percussion VORTEX
celebrates John Cage with former dancers of the Merce Cunningham Dance Company, plus Company Rose with Marsha Barsky and Erin Law, choreographers

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