In July 2019, Trinity Laban welcomed students from The Juilliard School for a one-week collaborative project in celebration of the Merce Cunningham Centennial.
Together, Trinity Laban and The Juilliard School students performed a Cunningham repertoire based MinEvent, staged by Robert Swinston, Director of the National Centre for Contemporary Dance in Angers, France and Trinity Laban Dance Lecturer Daniel Squire.
Juilliard x Trinity Laban Cunningham Collaboration
Staging: Robert Swinston & Daniel Squire
Musicians: Peter Nagle, Michael Clulow, Andy Trewren & Heather Stephenson
Costume: Florence Meredith & Klara Landin Larsson
Lighting: Kate Elliott
Sound: PJ Harvey & Syd Funnell
Performers: Nina Peng & Taylor Massa (The Juilliard School), Mitchell Davies, Hannah Wallace, Natalya Smith, Anastasia Maselli & Molly Hick (Trinity Laban)
A Trinity Laban perspective
This experience has had so much impact on my development as a dancer here at Laban. It challenged me beyond our normal curriculum, and having the opportunity to delve deeper into the work of Merce Cunningham with the guidance of experts was so rewarding. Collaborating with the dancers from Juilliard was very inspiring.
Hannah Wallace, BA2
Trinity Laban Dance Lecturer Daniel Squire has had an ongoing relationship with the work of Merce Cunningham for 23 years, performing around the world with Cunningham’s dance company, and staging many of his works.
Earlier this year, Daniel was invited by the Barbican Centre to stage the London leg of Night of 100 Solos: A Centennial Event which featured performances by 100 dancers including Trinity Laban alum Elly Braund.
More recently, Daniel has worked with the Royal Ballet to stage Cunningham’s Crosscurrents – a trio first seen in London in 1964 – and in November, he will be working with Elly again for Richard Alston Dance Company’s upcoming At Home series at Siobhan Davies Dance.
Daniel joined Trinity Laban in 2015 and teaches Cunningham Technique to dance students at the Conservatoire.
Robert Swinston graduated from the Juilliard School with a BFA in Dance. His experiences as a dancer began with the Martha Graham Apprentice Group. He performed with the companies of Kazuko Hirabayashi and José Limón, before joining Merce Cunningham Dance Company (MCDC) in 1980. In 1992, he became Assistant to the Choreographer. After Cunningham’s death in 2009 Robert became Director of Choreography and maintained the company’s repertoire during the Legacy Tour (2010-2011). During this period he assembled 25 Events for MCDC, concluding with the final performances at the Park Avenue Armory Events.
In January 2013, he became Artistic Director of the Centre national de danse contemporaine (CNDC) in Angers, France. He has also staged Cunningham works for companies such as the White Oak Dance Project, Rambert Dance Company, New York City Ballet, and the Paris Opera.
An insight into the music...
The music for this project was, in the spirit of the partnership between John Cage and Merce Cunningham, conceived entirely separately from the dance and brought together with it only at the end for the dress rehearsal and performance. All four of us brought different approaches that reflect different aspects of Cage’s aesthetic, whether the use of amplified found objects, prepared piano, random readings from Cage’s seminal book Silence or the combination of preconceived actions with chance procedures and unpredictable sound sources. Through a process of improvisation and experimentation, we devised a number of strategies for the performance which enabled us to have a broad plan while maintaining the spontaneity of an improvised approach.
This project was a huge joy for all of us to work on: it was a great privilege to share the stage with the fantastically talented dancers from both Trinity Laban and The Juilliard School. The process of being part of an environment where two groups work independently, while at the same time being united in focus and concentration, is something that I can only describe as magical.
Peter Nagle, Department Coordinator: Composition and Keyboard/ PhD candidate for Composition
Merce Cunningham is considered one of the most influential choreographers of the 20th century. He was a dance-maker, collaborator, innovator, film producer and teacher. During his career, he created 180 repertory dances and more than 700 ‘Events’, in which he would combine movement phrases from past works into a choreographic event that could be performed anywhere. His movement style is defined by precision and complexity and is now taught worldwide as the Cunningham technique.find out more
A Juilliard perspective
"It was amazing to get to perform with people from different backgrounds and cultures and also to see how fast we blended into each other on this project, so much so that one of the faculty members said that we all looked like one company."
Nina Peng, student at The Juilliard School
Juilliard students Nina Peng and Taylor Massa give their persepctive on learning Cunnigham in London in this 'Summer Tales' blog entry.Read the blog
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