A MERCE CUNNINGHAM DANCE COMPANY QUICKIE (with an extended Trisha Brown Parenthetical)

Brandon Collwes, Dylan Crossman, Julie Cunningham, Emma Desjardins, Jennifer Goggans, John Hinrichs, Daniel Madoff, Rashaun Mitchell, Marcie Munnerlyn, Krista Nelson, Silas Riener, Jamie Scott, Robert Swinston, Melissa Toogood, Andrea Weber: those are all of them, the very last of the Mohicans.

Members of Merce Cunningham Dance Company perform CRWDSPCR (2007). Photo by Anna Finke.

Come New Year’s Eve, it will all be over. What an impossible thing to consider—until you think of what the alternative might be (a calcified object limping along, with no thought of why or how)—and then you’re filled with gratitude, that somebody had the guts to do the right thing, pull the plug while the heart was still beating.

We don’t last. Why do we think art has to?

(I also thought about this while watching the Trisha Brown Dance Company, performing just down 19th Street at Dance Theater Workshop, the same too-cold-for spring weeks in late March. Brown’s glory years began in the 1960s and I think maybe ebbed out in the early ’90s, a brilliant 30-plus year rush—how fiercely you sense the intensely sophisticated and playful mind driving that work, and how strange and sad and beautiful it is to see her now, so frail, as Cunningham was toward the end,but different, to see her lost in that work, and held by it, hair rumpled and a little girl smile on her face as she bows with her dancers, who are so gentle with her, and so breakneck with themselves. It’s their turn.)

Why do we even want it to last? What is that all about? So we can engage in the same endless, awful, predictable debate about whether such-and-such a dance was better 30 years ago, how so-and-so dancers just don’t get what the work should be? (Like who the hell are we to say that shit and think it means anything?)

The last Sunday afternoon in March was the last CRWDSPCR ever. I don’t know what it looked like at the premiere in 1993. I wasn’t there. On Sunday it was glorious beyond glorious, the dancers pushing through exhaustion to meet the choreography’s impossible demands, and—this was the real kicker—smiling as they did it, not those stupid presentational facsimiles people sometimes slap on, but smiling—laughing, really—to themselves and each other as they went about their business. Ordinary. Exalted. Netted in John King’s marvelous sounds. They didn’t have to be anything other than themselves, and neither did we, and I felt lucky to be in just this place on just this day.

It wasn’t the definitive version of CRWDSPCR. Just the final one, and only for those who saw it, and even then maybe it was several somebodys’ first one, too. Outside, the sky was a perfect distant blue, a color that my friend said did not exist, unless it was maybe “aching blue.”

He was smoking a cigarette and I think eating potato chips. We watched as one of the dancers, finished for the day, hurried from the Joyce Theater, movie star incognito in dark sunglasses. We were sentimental; he had places to be.

Contributor

Claudia La Rocco

CLAUDIA LA ROCCO was 16 in 1993.