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Celebrating Merce Cunningham’s Centennial

Mon 8 April 2019

Daniel Squire stages a project at the Barbican to mark 100 years since the birth of the prolific American dance artist.

The Merce Cunningham Trust has invited Trinity Laban Dance Lecturer Daniel Squire to stage the London leg of Night of 100 Solos: A Centennial Event, a celebration across the three cities that will showcase material from six decades of Cunningham’s extensive, boundary-pushing career.

Daniel has had an on-going 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 –

“I first saw the company perform in 1995 in London. I was immediately captivated by the dancers’ active investigation of the choreography. It was explicit live engagement, rather than presentation. Seeing that was a major moment in my life.”

Daniel joined the Faculty of Dance at Trinity Laban in 2015 –

“It was important to me, in continuing to engage with Merce’s technique and repertory work, that I should be doing that at a place where it was already valued. Trinity Laban had already established that culture, primarily through Gary Lambert [Senior Lecturer in Dance] who had worked closely with Merce whilst at Rambert Dance Company.”

At the Conservatoire Daniel teaches Cunningham Technique – a training process to develop strength and flexibility in both the body and mind – and stages Cunningham’s works as part of the annual Historical Project for second-year dance students –

“It is important for young dancers to experience his approach and ways of working as part of their training – it opens them up to choreographic possibilities and inspires their creativity.”

Daniel has been working with fellow Merce Cunningham Dance Company alumni Cheryl Therrien and Ashley Chen as associate stagers over the last year, creating a diverse programme for the centennial event that brings together 25 dancers, including Siobhan Davies, and Trinity Laban alumnus Elly Braund.

In representing the diversity of Cunningham’s work, one of the challenges of the event is to fit 100 solos in only an hour and a half, which has meant many solos will co-exist on the same stage at once.

In addition, Daniel has split the programme into six sections of 15 minutes, and has rolled dice to decide which solo should be in which section and in what order. This process of letting chance be a determining factor of performance was core to Cunningham’s approach – he used it as a creative tool to challenge the traditional notion of storytelling in dance.

The large-scale, transatlantic celebration takes place on 16 April 2019 at the Barbican in London, Brooklyn Academy of Music in New York City, and Centre for the Art of Performance at UCLA in Los Angeles. Assisting the staging in LA is Trinity Laban alumnus and former member of Cunningham Dance Company Dylan Crossman

In keeping with Cunningham’s interest in technology, the event will be live-streamed, allowing anyone anywhere to experience each venue’s 90-minute performance in real time.For more information about the centennial or for access to the Live Streaming, visit the Barbican’s website and Merce Cunningham Trust’s website.

Trinity Laban’s own staging of Cunningham’s choreography can been see as part of Dance Legends: BA2 Historical Projects at Laban Theatre 20 & 21 June.

To find out more about studying dance at Trinity Laban visit our study pages.


Image: Trinity Laban MinEvents 9, 10, 11 & 12 (2017), choreography by Merce Cunningham, arranged & staged by Daniel Squire (credit: JK Photography)