July 11, 2008 - Walker Art Center - Merce Cunningham Dance Company
July 11, 2008

Merce Cunningham Dance Company

Merce Cunningham Dance Company

September 11-13, 2008

Rainbow Quarry, Minnesota


This fall the Walker Art Center restages Merce Cunningham and John Cage’s monumental Ocean on the floor of the dramatic Rainbow Granite Quarry in Waite Park, Minnesota. This landmark statewide collaboration will surely be one of the most sensational dance projects to be mounted in the U.S. this year. Of the work, Merce Cunningham says, “Ocean was originally conceived for out-of-doors. A quarry called ‘Rainbow Granite’ seems an ideal spot.”

This underground work in-the-round dubbed “Merce on the Rocks” is the spectacular site-specific production of one of Cunningham’s most ambitious works—Ocean— involving not just the full 14-member Merce Cunningham Dance Company, but an electronic score by David Tudor, and Andrew Culver’s orchestral score (inspired by John Cage) performed by 150 instrumentalists from across the state of Minnesota who will encircle the audience at the bottom of the quarry. Acclaimed filmmaker and longtime Cunningham collaborator Charles Atlas will stage a five-camera shoot of the entire production which will become a living record of this stunning work.

Ocean is structured in 19 sections according to Cunningham’s use of a chance process based on the number of hexagrams in the I Ching; there are 128 possible phrases, including solos, duets, trios, quartets, and ensembles involving the entire cast of 14 dancers. Cunningham has said: “Choreography in the round has opened up a number of possibilities, particularly in terms of directions and facings. It is not flat space, but curved . . . . Each time we go over what has been worked on, I see possibilities missed: through chance operations I try to utilize them. It is amazing to be working in the round, in reference to the space, it brings up Einstein’s work about curving space—we tend to think flat. I told the dancers: ‘You have to put yourself on a merry-go-round that keeps turning all the time.’ I use chance operations to determine where they face at each moment in a phrase. Difficult, but fascinating.”

The revival of Ocean was held on July 12, 2005, at Lincoln Center, where New York audiences saw its premiere in 1994. Because it is a monumental production, the work has been seen only in Brussels, Amsterdam, Venice, Berkeley, New York City, Belfast, Montpellier, London, Miami, and Niigata, Japan. Also, in each of these prior performances, changes to the in-the-round presentation and orchestration were made compromising the full unique multidisciplinary work. The Minnesota presentation is the only time the work has been produced in a quarry.

Coproduced by the Walker Art Center and the Cunningham Dance Foundation, with the Benedicta Arts Center of the College of Saint Benedict and Northrop Dance at the University of Minnesota. Made possible through a generous gift of John and Sage Cowles and by a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts American Masterpieces: Presenting program. Special thanks to Martin Marietta Materials and the city of Waite Park.

The Walker Art Center’s dance season is sponsored by Gray Plant Mooty.

The production was co-commissioned by the Benedicta Arts Center of the College of Saint Benedict, St. Joseph, MN and Dance Umbrella. Major support provided by The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts, and members of the Board of Directors of the Cunningham Dance Foundation.

The filming of Ocean is made possible through major support from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. Additional funds provided by The Ford Foundation and Save America’s Treasures, a partnership between the National Endowment for the Arts and the National Park Service, Department of the Interior.

Walker Art Center



For complete information and tickets visit calendar.walkerart.org/ocean

Walker Art Center
Share - Merce Cunningham Dance Company
  • Share