Thursday 12 March 2020

New York City, Dance Capital of the World: Column by Janaki Patrik

Moving to New York City in summer 1971, I enrolled at the Merce Cunningham Studio. A few weeks later the Studio held scholarship auditions. I was offered a work-study scholarship, and for the next seven years I took two Cunningham technique classes, six days a week. I also took a daily ballet class at another studio. Four and one-half hours total of training six days a week for seven years developed my stamina and kinesthetic memory.

Merce's classes were never the same. We had a few warm-up combinations, such as 'The Exercise on Six' which began each class, but even those exercises could change. During one memorable summer, when Merce taught the Advanced class five days a week for six weeks, he changed the time cycle every few days. For whatever duration of days he decided to continue in that time cycle, Merce composed every warmup, every center and every across-the-floor combination in that chosen time cycle, whether 3, 5, 6, 7, 9, 10, 11 .... Merce also taught a class in choreography. Two concepts which I remember him emphasizing were: 1. carefully construct the beginning and ending of your piece. The audience will remember those sections most clearly and judge your worth by them. 2. Don't show the preparation for changes of directions so transparently that they can be predicted even before you move.

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