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Merce Cunningham Pioneer of Modern Dance In the age of conformity Merce Cunningham has resisted the temptation to remain aligned with his peers Cunningham has pioneered a new school of thought in dance and has set the standard for future pioneers He is passionate about what he does and it has been evident in his works as a dancer and a choreographer Cunningham was born on April 16 1919 in Centralia Washington At the age of twelve Cunningham became interested in dance and started informal instruction Upon graduation from high school Cunningham began his formal dance instruction at the Cornish School of Fine and Applied Arts After two years at the Cornish School he studied at Mills College and at Bennington College this is where he was invited to join Martha Grahams dance company in 1939 Graham was an incredible dancer who also choreographed during her career While dancing for Graham Cunningham began to make a name for himself in the dancing community It was with Grahams encouragement that Cunningham started to choreograph on his own His decision to start choreographing can be looked at as one of the most important decisions in the history of dance With the encouragement of John Cage a composer Cunningham left Martha Grahams Dance Company in 1945 to pursue a fulltime partnership with Cage The two men would go on to have a very storied career On the night of April 6 1944 at the Humphrey Weidman Studio Cunningham and Cage performed their first solo recital In attendance that night was acclaimed dance critic Edwin Denby When he was actively reviewing Edwin Denby was this countrys most respected critic of the danceKlosty 215 Cunninghams first performance captured Denby from the very beginning with Cunninghams amazing steps runs and knee bends and he described them as brilliant in lightness and speed Denby was also impressed by Cunninghams gifts as a lyric dancer Denbys first review of Cunningham helped launch his
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