Zephyr Announces Merce Cunningham Project

Zephyr Announces Merce Cunningham Project

Zephyr Dance, an experimental dance company that pushes the art form’s boundaries, announces an unprecedented collaborative choreography project that combines Suite for Five by seminal 20th century American choreographer Merce Cunningham and new choreography that springs from that work created by a diverse group of choreographers. S45 has its world premiere October 19–22, 2023 at Zephyr’s space SITE/less, 1250 West Augusta Boulevard, Chicago.

Curated by Michelle Kranicke, Zephyr artistic director and SITE/less co-director; David Sundry, architect and SITE/less co-director; and Paige Cunningham-Caldarella, a former Cunningham company dancer and independent choreographer, S45 breaks new ground in multiple ways.

The Merce Cunningham Trust has granted permission for Caldarella to restage the iconic 1956 work Suite for Five and, for the first time, for she and other choreographers to deconstruct that work and create new choreography that draws inspiration from the original. The curators have recruited choreographers with a range of backgrounds and artistic focus: in addition to Kranicke and Caldarella, they include Darrell Jones, Roxane D’Orléans Juste and Kota Yamazaki. “Each choreographer is a seasoned veteran in the dance world with a longstanding practice and an aesthetic foundation they have been building on for more than 10 years,” said Kranicke. “And they represent a breadth of different movement disciplines— Butoh, improvisation, voguing, and various modern dance vocabularies.”

Suite for Five has been performed mostly in traditional proscenium theaters for at least the past 40 years. SITE/less, which aims to rethink the connection between movement and architecture and deepen the relationship between the viewer and the venue beyond the typical model, invites viewers within inches of the dancers—“literally inside the dance,” Kranicke noted. “The experience will be more intimate, more immersive, than a typical performance of this work.”

Sundry, in keeping with the architectural mission of SITE/less, will reconfigure and add to an existing architecture installation of platforms in the SITE/less space; he is approaching the project through both the architecture and his history as a trained painter and visual artist. “Part of the mission of SITE/less is the ongoing critique of the proscenium stage presentation style that positions the audience as the fourth wall,” Sundry explained. “The current stacked platform construction allows the audience to change their proximity and views of the work at will throughout the evening. The immersive, radial nature of the SITE/less space expands upon Cunningham’s idea of there being many points that could be considered the ‘front’ of the dance.”
Said Kranicke, “As Merce’s collaborators—composer John Cage and visual artists Robert Rauschenberg, Jasper Johns and Marcel DuChamp—applied certain techniques to the artists before them to open up new pathways for themselves and their work. We will both salute Cunningham’s legacy and open up new pathways for the art form as each choreographer, with a distinct discipline and viewpoint, engages with the original Suite for Five.”

S45 premieres with Merce Cunningham’s Suite for Five Thursday–Saturday, October 19–22 at 7:30 p.m. at SITE/less, 1250 West Augusta Boulevard, Chicago. Tickets are on sale at zephyrdance.com.