When Merce Cunningham Took On a New Collaborator: The Computer

“Computers are the future of dance,” Merce Cunningham announced to me at his company’s Christmas party in 1995. “People just don’t understand the future possibilities of the computer and dance.”

To Cunningham, the can-do seer of modern dance, the computer as an ancillary muse was as obvious as the glass of red wine he was sipping. I was the company’s publicist then, struggling to envision what he was saying. A computer instead of his gorgeous dancers?

Since the pandemic shut down the performing arts as we know them, the subject of the future of dance, always a question given its fragile economy, seems particularly urgent. With bodies of flesh, bone and muscle mostly unavailable to choreographers, they are using Zoom to stage rehearsals or work with dancers. A videoconferencing platform, Zoom wasn’t designed to suggest new movement ideas, and it limits the choreographer to working mostly with one dancer per

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