Walker Art Center to Premiere Merce Cunningham Film

In September 2008, 150 feet below the earth’s surface, at the bottom of a massive granite quarry in Waite Park, Minnesota, legendary dance innovator Merce Cunningham staged Ocean, one of the largest, most ambitious works of his 60-year career. This landmark performance by the Merce Cunningham Dance Company (MCDC) was presented by the Walker Art Center together with the Benedicta Arts Center of the College of Saint Benedict and Northrop Dance at the University of Minnesota. On the two-year anniversary of this epic production, the public is invited to join renowned filmmaker and longtime Cunningham collaborator Charles Atlas at the Walker for the world premiere screening of Ocean, Atlas’ extraordinary film of that performance, on Wednesday, September 15, at 7 pm in the Walker Cinema. With Cunningham’s death in July 2009, the release of Atlas’ new documentary will be the final living record of this stunning work, which was performed by MCDC in the round, with 150 musicians from the St. Cloud Symphony Orchestra performing an orchestral score realized by Andrew Culver (inspired by John Cage) and electronic score by David Tudor. The ticket price includes a post-screening reception with the filmmaker and a cash bar for all ticket-holders. Proceeds from this historic event will benefit the Cunningham Dance Foundation’s Legacy Plan.

Ocean culminates 40 years of collaboration between Cunningham and Atlas, who first began working together during the early 1970s. Atlas served as MCDC’s filmmaker-in-residence from 1974 through 1983, and it was during these years that Atlas and Cunningham pioneered the genre of the “film dance”–in which the choreography is deliberately altered to take advantage of the perspectives and cinematic possibilities afforded by the camera. The last film Atlas made with Cunningham, Ocean beautifully captures the monumental performance of Cunningham’s landmark work.

This premiere is a benefit for the Cunningham Dance Foundation’s Legacy Plan.

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