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Special Report

Paris festival pays tribute to choreographer Merce Cunningham on centenary

The 49th edition of the Festival d'Automne in Paris pays tribute to the American choreographer Merce Cunningham on November 30, 2019, for the centenary of his birth.
The 49th edition of the Festival d'Automne in Paris pays tribute to the American choreographer Merce Cunningham on November 30, 2019, for the centenary of his birth. Screen grab, FRANCE 24

Events to mark the centenary of the birth of Merce Cunningham, one of the 20th century’s greatest choreographers, are being held all around the world.

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As part of Paris’s contemporary arts festival, the Festival d’Automne, the capital’s top dance school is staging one of the world’s biggest ensemble performances of Cunningham’s work on November 30, with 106 dance students performing in a tribute called Cunningham X 100.

“Cunningham is very, very rigorous,” said Leo, a student at the Paris Conservatory of Music and Dance. “It resembles classical technique.”

The students are guided by two of the choreographer’s former dancers, Cheryl Therrien and Cédric Andrieux.

Cunningham’s choreography “remains very radical, to see how dance and music could be separated, how it didn’t have to have a narration to exist”, says Andrieux, who is also director of the Paris Conservatory of Music and Dance.

Considered too avant-garde in the United States, the American choreographer found fame in France in the 1950s. Over the span of six decades he created nearly 200 works, probing the mysteries of life through dance.

Click on the player above to watch the report by Julia Kim.

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