The Dance: Having a Ball in Brooklyn

The choreography of Merce Cunningham is to dancing what nonobjectivity is to painting or atonality to music. His work is total abstraction, es chewing the cliches and conventions of gesture, costume and music by which both ballet and modern dance seek to evoke moods, emotions and dramatic climaxes. Whatever emotions Cunningham's audiences feel are entirely in dividual. The same movement or interplay of bodies might engender fear in one person and laughter in another—and that is the way it is meant to be.

A onetime soloist with Marsha Graham, Cunningham has earned international acclaim with the small, highly honed...

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