Renowned dance company performs new works amidst Dia’s collection

Dec 21, 2007

Beacon, NY—Dia Art Foundation is pleased to announce the second performance in a series titled Beacon Events by Merce Cunningham Dance Company (MCDC) on January 12 and 13, 2008, at 2pm. This performance will be held in the two parallel galleries devoted to Walter De Maria’s artwork, Equal Area Series. A stage will connect the two galleries and viewers will be invited to walk around the space and experience the performance from a variety of vantage points. New music will be performed to accompany the dancers. In Cage/Cunningham style, these public performances will be the only time the musicians and dancers come together.

Over a two-year period, Merce Cunningham will choreograph eight site-specific Events within the galleries at Dia:Beacon, the home for Dia’s renowned permanent collection of works from the 1960s to the present. Merce Cunningham has been creating site-specific works since 1964, and the galleries at Dia:Beacon offer a unique environment for Cunningham’s compositions. Many of the artists in Dia’s collection were friends, peers, and former collaborators of Cunningham’s, and each artist’s installation provides a different and challenging site for new work. Cunningham’s compositions will be presented seasonally and will necessarily adapt to the change of seasons and variations of light offered by Dia:Beacon’s 34,000-plus square feet of skylights. The third Beacon Event will take place in May 2008.

In conjunction with their performances at Dia, MCDC has organized a series of residency activities that are free with museum admission that take place beginning on January 7 through January 14 (for a detailed schedule see listing below). These include: screenings of Cage/Cunningham, Elliot Caplan’s 1991 documentary on January 7 and 14; talks in Dia’s Learning Lab by painter and writer Ray Kass on January 11, and Pulitzer Prize-winning writer Ken Silverman on January 12; as well as a special education program, Family Day, created in collaboration with Dia’s education program scheduled for January 13. Additionally on January 12, 2008 at 3:30pm, Dia:Beacon will host a conversation between Merce Cunningham and Dia Art Foundation curator Lynne Cooke.

MCDC residency activities at Dia:Beacon

January 7* and 14, 2008, 1:30pm
Screening of Cage/Cunningham, Elliot Caplan’s 1991 documentary which chronicles the history of Merce Cunningham’s 50 plus years of collaboration with John Cage.
*Director Elliot Caplan will introduce the film and answer questions for the January 7 screening.

January 11-13, 2008, 11-4pm
The John Cage Trust, under the direction of Executive Director Laura Kuhn, has organized a series of videos, projects, and interactive activities for the Dia:Beacon Learning Lab accessible via the Lab’s computers work stations. These programs are appropriate for all ages. Additional Learning Lab guest speakers and screenings:

January 11, 2008, 2:30-4pm
  Ray Kass, nationally recognized painter and writer, and founder of the Mountain Lake Workshop, discusses John Cage’s watercolors alongside archival footage of Cage at the Workshop.

January 12, 2008, 12-2pm
Ken Silverman, Pulitzer Prize-winning writer and author of an upcoming biography on John Cage, introduces the film Merce Cunningham: A Lifetime of Dance, directed by Charles Atlas.

January 12, 2008, 3:30pm
Dia:Beacon hosts a conversation between Merce Cunningham and Dia curator Lynne Cooke. Reservations are suggested, 845 440 0100 x45.

January 13, 2008, at 12pm
MCDC and Dia’s education program present Family Day, a movement-based tour of various artworks in the museum. Participants will create their own dance “Events” based on their observations. Children age 6 and above are encouraged to attend and must be accompanied by an adult. Free with museum admission, reservations are suggested, 845 440 0100 x33.

Additionally, Dia and MCDC will produce a book that will document all of MCDC’s eight, week-long residencies and performances at Dia:Beacon, projected for publication in 2009.

MCDC's Hudson Valley Project, in partnership with the Dia Art Foundation, Bard College, and The John Cage Trust at Bard College has been made possible, in part, through major support from The New York State Music Fund, established by the New York State Attorney General at Rockefeller Philanthropic Advisors. Additional support has been provided by Melissa and Robert Soros, The Gladys Krieble Delmas Foundation, The Harkness Foundation for Dance, The Fan Fox and Leslie R. Samuels Foundation, and through public support from the National Endowment for the Arts which believes that a great nation deserves great art.

Merce Cunningham
Merce Cunningham, born in Centralia, Washington, received his first formal dance and theater training at the Cornish School (now Cornish College of the Arts) in Seattle. From 1939 to 1945, he was a soloist in the company of Martha Graham and presented his first New York solo concert with John Cage in April 1944. Cunningham has choreographed nearly 200 works for his company. Cunningham's interest in contemporary technology has led him to work with the computer program DanceForms, which he has used in making all his dances since Trackers (1991). In 1997 he began work in motion capture with Paul Kaiser and Shelley Eshkar of Riverbed Media to develop the decor for BIPED, with music by Gavin Bryars, first performed in 1999 at Zellerbach Hall, University of California at Berkeley. Another major work, Interscape, first given in 2000, reunited Cunningham with his early collaborator Robert Rauschenberg, who designed both décor and costumes for the dance, which has music by John Cage. In the 2002–03 season MCDC celebrated its 50th anniversary, beginning with performances at the 2002 Lincoln Center Festival in New York City and ending in the Brooklyn Academy of Music’s Next Wave Festival in October 2003, when a new work with music by two rock bands, Radiohead and Sigur Rós, Split Sides, was presented. The décor was by the photographers Robert Heishman and Catherine Yass, with costumes by James Hall and lighting by James F. Ingalls. Merce Cunningham: Dancing on the Cutting Edge, an exhibition of recent design for MCDC, opened at the Museum of Contemporary Art, North Miami, in January 2007. The major exhibition Invention: Merce Cunningham & Collaborators at the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts closed on October 13, 2007.

Merce Cunningham Dance Company
Merce Cunningham Dance Company was created in 1953 at Black Mountain College. The original group included Carolyn Brown, Viola Farber, Paul Taylor, and Remy Charlip. John Cage was music director and David Tudor the company musician. In June 1964, an enlarged group set off on a world tour through Western and Eastern Europe, India, Thailand, and Japan. John Cage’s association with the company continued until his death in August 1992, when David Tudor succeeded him as music director. In July 2005 the company opened the Lincoln Center Festival in New York with a revival of the 1994 work Ocean. The October 2007 domestic tour began at Dartmouth College with the premiere of Merce Cunningham’s most recent dance, XOVER. The company then traveled to Australia for a residency and performances in the Melbourne International Arts Festival. The year ended with return engagements at the Théâtre de la Ville in Paris (as part of the Festival d’Automne à Paris) and Le Manège in Reims, France. Spring 2008 includes the European premiere of XOVER in Bruges, Belgium.

Dia:Beacon, Riggio Galleries
Dia:Beacon, Dia Art Foundation’s museum in the Hudson Valley, presents a distinguished collection of contemporary art from the 1960s to the present. Situated on the banks of the Hudson River in Beacon, New York, the museum occupies a former Nabisco box-printing facility, which was renovated by Dia with artist Robert Irwin and architect OpenOffice. Dia:Beacon’s expansive galleries comprise 240,000 square feet of exhibition space illuminated by natural light. The museum houses works by a focused group of some of the most significant artists of the last half century, including Bernd and Hilla Becher, Joseph Beuys, Louise Bourgeois, John Chamberlain, Walter De Maria, Dan Flavin, Michael Heizer, Robert Irwin, Donald Judd, On Kawara, Imi Knoebel, Sol LeWitt, Agnes Martin, Bruce Nauman, Blinky Palermo, Gerhard Richter, Robert Ryman, Fred Sandback, Richard Serra, Robert Smithson, Andy Warhol, and Lawrence Weiner.

Programming at the museum includes a series of year-long temporary exhibitions as well as public programs designed to complement the collection and exhibitions, including monthly gallery talks, music performances by St. Luke’s Chamber Ensemble, Community Free Days for neighboring counties and an education program that serves area students at all education levels.

Dia:Beacon is easily reachable via Metro-North Railroad. The Hudson Line station in Beacon is within walking distance of the museum. Trains depart hourly from Grand Central Terminal in New York City. For schedule and fare information, please visit the MTA’s website at The museum is also reachable by major roadways. Driving directions are available on Dia’s website at Admission is $10 general, $7 for students and seniors, and free for Dia members and children under 12. Current winter hours are 11 am to 4 pm, Friday through Monday until April 14, 2008. The public information line for the museum is (845) 400-0100.

Dia Art Foundation
A nonprofit institution founded in 1974, Dia Art Foundation is internationally renowned for initiating, supporting, presenting, and preserving art projects. Dia presents public programs and its permanent collection of works from the 1960s through the present at Dia:Beacon, Riggio Galleries, in New York’s Hudson Valley. Since opening in spring 2003, Dia:Beacon has received more than 350,000 visitors. Beginning in the fall of 2007, Dia presents commissions and projects by contemporary artists at the Hispanic Society of America while it seeks a permanent home for these initiatives in New York City. Additionally, the foundation maintains long-term, site-specific projects in the western United States, in New York City, and in Bridgehampton on Long Island. For additional public information, visit

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For additional information or materials contact:
Press Department, Dia Art Foundation, or 212 293 5518

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