Music: How Strange

"This," said the young man, "is the avant-garde of all the arts in one hall." He was standing in the lobby of Manhattan's off-Broadway Phoenix Theater, surrounded by an intermission crowd of beards, ponytails and beatminks. The occasion: an evening of modern dance presented by the most consistently daring experimenter in the field—Dancer-Choreographer Merce Cunningham.

Since he left the Martha Graham company 14 years ago, Merce Cunningham has pursued a labyrinthine path extravagantly admired by his followers but often bewilderingly obscure to uninitiated spectators. In Cunningham's world, disembodied arms may project from behind curtains to serve as coat racks, the dancers may...

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