This preview has been provided by Duke Performances.


January 14, 2011, Durham, NC – Founded in North Carolina in 1953 and set to disband in December 2011, the Merce Cunningham Dance Company will perform for the final time in North Carolina on Friday and Saturday, February 4 and 5, at 8 pm at the Durham Performing Arts Center, presented by Duke Performances. 

When Cunningham died in 2009, part of his will stipulated that the company create and complete a world-wide Legacy Tour to feature work from the breadth of Cunningham’s repertoire.  Further, Cunningham called for the company, upon completion of the Legacy Tour, to be disbanded.  With dancers trained by Cunningham himself, these two Durham performances will be the last performances in North Carolina, the state in which the company was founded. 

The two nights feature the same three works: Soundance from 1975, “An ecstatic opus” for 10 dancers, “the whole experience, music and dancing, [is] an exhilarating rush” (Washington Post); Duets from 1980, “a newly eloquent peak” in the choreographer’s meditation on human movement (NY Times) which ends in a whirling finale for all 6 couples; and finally Biped from 1999, “one of his most luxuriant works, where futuristic patterns of light frame choreography of scale and wonder” (Guardian (UK)) for the full company.

This is the first time Duke Performances has presented an event at the Durham Performing Arts Center.

Founded in 1953 in Black Mountain, North Carolina, with composer John Cage and the involvement of painters Robert Rauschenberg and Jasper Johns, the Merce Cunningham Dance Company became the primary vehicle for one of 20th century American art’s most influential creators.  According to the New York Times, “Cunningham ranks among the foremost figures of artistic modernism and among the few who have transformed the nature and status of dance theater.”

In addition to the two performances at DPAC, on Thursday, February 3, at 6:30 pm in Reynolds Theater, for free and open to the public, the company will present and discuss Cunningham’s Suite for Five which features music by John Cage and costumes by Robert Rauschenberg.  Company dancers will perform the piece and then the company’s archivist, director of choreography, and executive director will discuss the history and impact of the work.

A key component of the Legacy Plan Cunningham created to guide the company after his death, the Legacy Tour is a celebration of Cunningham’s lifetime of artistic achievement.  Launched in February 2010, the two-year tour offers audiences around the world a final opportunity to see Cunningham’s choreography performed by the company he personally trained.  The Legacy Tour will showcase 18 seminal works from throughout Cunningham’s career—including the revival of seven dances from past Company repertory—and will highlight the collaborations with artistic innovators such John Cage, Jasper Johns, Radiohead, and Robert Rauschenberg that characterized Cunningham’s creative life.

Currently encompassing some 40 cities across the globe, the Legacy Tour will bring the Merce Cunningham Dance Company to both new destinations and to venues that have been pivotal in showcasing the Company for the past 50 years.  The Legacy Tour ends December 2011 in New York City.

Tickets for the performances are available through the DPAC box office via phone at 919-680-2787, the internet at, or the DPAC on-site box office.

WHO:  Merce Cunningham Dance Company
WHAT: Final North Carolina Performances
WHEN:  Friday & Saturday, February 4 & 5, 8 pm
WHERE:  Durham Performing Arts Center, Durham, NC
HOW MUCH:  $58 • $48 • $38 • Duke Students $5

Ken Rumble, Marketing Director
office: 919-660-3348
cell: 919-444-1667