Sherry Zunker on Merce and VENT – Choreographer Spotlight

Editor’s Note: Choreographer Sherry Zunker attended the Chicago choreographers’ tour of the MCA’s recent exhibit “Merce Cunningham: Common Time”. A few months later, Picture this Post caught up with Sherry shortly after seeing a sneak preview of her upcoming collaboration with Wilfredo Rivera and the Cerque Rivera Dance Company.


(Read Wilfredo Rivera’s comments on Merce Cunningham here.)

The difference between Zunker’s choreography and Merce Cunningham’s could not be more stark. With that as a launch point, Picture this Post (PTP) asked Sherry Zunker (SZ) to re-visit her visit of the Merce Cunninham exhibit. Read this exchange below—


PTP: What role does music play in your choreography?

SZ: “I feel the music I choose in all areas of my career whether it be choreography, constructing a show, or teaching a class is a vital element to my work. It is as important as the movement itself and how it is executed. I feel the music I choose is a key factor in any success I have had.”


PTP: Does that make Cunningham’s more abstract approach to movement somewhat foreign to your dance genres or are there takeaways?

SZ: “I don’t know if it’s foreign as much as it just doesn’t move me emotionally to watch dance, to choreograph, or to dance itself when the music is not integrated with the movement. I think there is always a take away. I appreciate and find Cunningham’s work interesting more than I enjoy it.

It’s good for me as an artist to realize that dance can be utilized to effect people in very different ways. Not all dance is meant to move people or entertain them. I have believed or at least have been driven by the idea that art and entertainment can co-exist. I may not always be successful but it is a goal.”


PTP: So to follow then, what part does feeling have in your choreography or choreography you especially like and are drawn to?

SZ: For me, anything I do is driven by emotion and my goal has always been to move an audience emotionally much more so than to intellectually stimulate them or to impress them. Even when I choreograph a BeMoved class my objective is to take the class participants on an emotional journey.


PTP: Your piece “Vent” that you are now updating for the Cerque Rivera Dance Company seems to epitomize your comments about dance. How did this exciting collaboration come about?

SZ: “My relationship with Wilfredo developed in the early years of River North Dance Company ( RNDC) when I was Artistic Director and he was a company member. Wilfredo was actually a member of RNDC before I joined it. Now over 20 years later he is an Artistic Director of Cerqua Rivera Dance Theatre (CRDT) and has hired me to re create Vent for CRDT.”


Find a video of the original “VENT” performance in the Picture this Post review of the Cerque Rivera Dance Theatre’s upcoming season highlights.

And, read more choreographers’ comments about Merce Cunningham in Picture This Post’s ongoing series, “Choreographers’ Eyes – Dancers Explain Dance.”