Sounddance explosion

 Quarks, anti-quarks, gluons, strangeness and charm…

 It seems one needs to reach into the glossary of quantum mechanics to even begin to describe CCN- Ballet de Lorraine performing Merce Cunningham’s 1973 work Sounddance.

A solo male dancer emerges from the heavy extra fold gold curtains that work to make the stage smaller. He will later be the last to disappear into that unknown world beyond the heavy gold curtains. The frenetic firestorm of Sounddance is set to an equally energetic score by David Tudor that he had originally called Toneburst, which to this writer seems a name fit to its essence.

Other dancers spill out from the curtain in spurts. They briefly partner and then attach into grouplets with each other and then re-form such. Quickly there is more happening in each moment and each corner than our small minds can possibly process. Like subatomic particles glomming together and exploding apart anew, we see this work that Cunningham himself described as “organized chaos”. One moment we are seeing nuclear fusion, the next nuclear fission. We are in that space where particles and waves are one.

Necks! Necks angling at odds with torsos at times seem to be momentum for the dancers’ bodies in ways we’ve never considered. Vibrating, reaching, leaping, streaking!   Are they now in an orgy pose? Whoosh, it’s gone! We are taking in a super energy charge via IV. We feast on a frenetic firestorm.

Who knew fusion energy was so tasty?

Best of all, Sounddance makes all that we have seen that is related to the MCA’s exhibit “Merce Cunningham: Common Time” come into a new level of crystal clear focus.

CCN Ballet de Lorraine Choreographers’ video dance

Working backwards, it sheds a light on both Cunningham’s Fabrications and the video-choreography piece Untitled Partner #3 by Petter Jacobsson and Thomas Caley that preceded the Sounddance explosion.

Jacobsson and Caley’s piece seems to be continuing the conversation that Cunningham started with a megaphone about a tug of war between entropy and structure. Four male dancers seem like many more as they take turns dancing and projecting video images of other dancers on ceiling, walls, and audience.

Some of the projected dancers clad in white spin and jump so quickly they take on the feeling of strobe lights. Meanwhile, the dancers on the floor are doing spinning turns across the stage and then pausing to be table tops for each other in L 7 forms. They run, they roll, and it seems like they take turns cueing with bright neon lights that they move and re-position in one or another array on the floor.   Coupled in a program with Sounddance, it seems like these choreographers are saying to Merce, “Yeah, ain’t equilibrium and stasis just a sometimes thing…”

MCA CCN Ballet de Lorraine
Untitled Partner #3 with video and choreography by Petter Jacobsson and Thomas Caley Photo: M. Rousseau


Also in this performance CCN Ballet de Lorraine performed Cunningham’s work Fabrications, his homage to the 64 hexagrams of the I Ching. 16 dancers move in front of an abstract painting of sorts by Dove Bradshaw. It’s a striking backdrop, which draws you in even without the dance.   We learn in the program that the choreographed phrases that the dancers are performing are random in sequence, though it’s not especially clear in this one viewing what that means.

Here too, with the Sounddance wrapper that came later it seems to be a slowdown of some quirky Merce signature movements that were syllables, and sometimes letters, in the later Sounddance explosion.

MCA Merce exhibits come into focus

Most of all, this powerhouse performance by CCN Ballet de Lorraine of all these works takes a veil off the current MCA’s “Merce Cunningham: Common Time” exhibit.

THIS is what all the fuss is about.

Stay tuned to these pages as Picture this Post writers reviews upcoming MCA music and dance events about Merce Cunningham.

And, also bookmark “Cunningham Through Choregraphers’ Eyes” to learn how today’s choreographers in many dance genres relate—or not‑—to Cunningham’s contributions to dance performance.


Photos:  Bernard Prudhomme, Laurent Philippe, M.Rousseau, and Nathan Keay.


MCA CCN Ballet de Lorraine
CCN Ballet de Lorraine performs Merce Cunningham's FABRICATIONS Photo: Bernard Prudhomme.
Amy Munice

About the Author: Amy Munice

Amy Munice is Editor-in-Chief and Co-Publisher of Picture This Post. She covers books, dance, film, theater, music, museums and travel. Prior to founding Picture This Post, Amy was a freelance writer and global PR specialist for decades—writing and ghostwriting thousands of articles and promotional communications on a wide range of technical and not-so-technical topics.

Amy hopes the magazine’s click-a-picture-to-read-a-vivid-account format will nourish those ever hunting for under-discovered cultural treasures. She especially loves writing articles about travel finds, showcasing works by cultural warriors of a progressive bent, and shining a light on bold, creative strokes by fledgling artists in all genres.


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