Dancing with Merce Cunningham

Dancing with Merce Cunningham

by Marianne Preger-Simon


View All Available Formats & Editions
Members save with free shipping everyday! 
See details


Dancing with Merce Cunningham is a buoyant, captivating memoir of a talented dancer’s lifelong friendship with one of the choreographic geniuses of our time.

Marianne Preger-Simon’s story opens amid the explosion of artistic creativity that followed World War II. While immersed in the vibrant arts scene of postwar Paris during a college year abroad, Preger-Simon was so struck by Merce Cunningham’s unconventional dance style that she joined his classes in New York. She soon became an important member of his brand new dance troupe—and a constant friend.

Through her experiences in the Merce Cunningham Dance Company, Preger-Simon offers a rare account of exactly how Cunningham taught and interacted with his students. She describes the puzzled reactions of audiences to the novel non-narrative choreography of the company’s debut performances. She touches on Cunningham’s quicksilver temperament—lamenting his early frustrations with obscurity and the discomfort she suspects he endured in concealing his homosexuality and partnership with composer John Cage—yet she celebrates above all his dependable charm, kindness, and engagement. She also portrays the comradery among the company’s dancers, designers, and musicians, many of whom—including Cage, David Tudor, and Carolyn Brown—would become integral to the avant-garde arts movement, as she tells tales of their adventures touring in a VW Microbus across the United States.

Finally, reflecting on her connection with Cunningham throughout the latter part of his career, Preger-Simon recalls warm moments that nurtured their enduring bond after she left the dance company and, later, New York. Interspersed with her letters to friends and family, journal entries, and correspondence from Cunningham himself, Preger-Simon’s memoir is an intimate look at one of the most influential companies in modern American dance and the brilliance of its visionary leader.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780813064857
Publisher: University Press of Florida
Publication date: 03/20/2019
Pages: 216
Sales rank: 1,241,106
Product dimensions: 5.90(w) x 8.90(h) x 0.50(d)

About the Author

Marianne Preger-Simon lives in Whately, Massachusetts. She danced with the Merce Cunningham Dance Company in its founding years, from 1950 until 1958. She remained friends with Merce Cunningham until his death in 2009.

Table of Contents

Foreword Stuart Hodes vii

Preface ix

Part I Entering the Orbit

1 At the End 3

2 Paris Calls 5

3 A New World 7

4 The Art World Beckons 13

5 Postwar Reverberations 16

6 Serendipity Opens a New Door 18

7 Ties to Home 22

8 One Step Leads to Another 27

9 Another Cherished New Friend 34

10 Return to New York City 38

11 Dancing 42

12 We Beginners 47

13 Earlier Cunningham Dancers 50

14 Passionate Duets 52

15 Our First Performance 54

Part II Pure Cunningham

16 Zen and the Art of Music 59

17 Chance Replaces Choice 62

18 Gloomy Weather 64

19 Fantasies Meet Reality 66

20 The Quiet Years 70

21 Launched 72

22 In Addition to Dancing 83

23 Our Company Members and Designers 89

24 Journeying to Performances 96

25 Breaking New Ground 99

26 Our First Grand Tour 102

27 Ups and Downs of the Dancers 111

28 Joy in Companionship 113

Part III The Only Way To Do It …

29 Separation Must Come 119

30 Family Wins 126

31 The Connection Holds 130

32 Leaving New York, but Not Our Bond 134

33 Paris Calls Again 146

34 Paris, November 1999 157

35 Paying Tribute 161

36 Merce Leaves, but His Legacy Is Forever 164

Merce Cunningham's Dance Classes 167

Afterword Alastair Macaulay 171

Acknowledgments 193

Notes 195

Index 199

What People are Saying About This

From the Publisher

“Many dancers find that they understand better in retrospect what they had been part of. Few write with Preger-Simon’s blend of sensitivity and generosity.”—from the afterword by Alastair Macaulay, chief dance critic, New York Times

“A cross between personal memoir and cultural history—an insider’s look at a pivotal moment in American dance history.”—Elizabeth Zimmer, dance critic, Village Voice

“Charming and moving. A delightful memoir of a woman’s 60-year relationship with perhaps the most important and innovative figure in dance in the second half of the twentieth century and a privileged introduction to the Merce Cunningham Dance Company.”—Jay Caplan, Amherst College

Customer Reviews