The blog of the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation

Jul 30, 2009

Oceans Away: Merce Cunningham and Fuerza Bruta

Posted by Celeste Fraser Delgado

Merce Cunningham passed away last Sunday, at the age of 90, the last survivor of the great founding choreographers of modern dance. Miami was blessed to celebrate his accomplishments while he was still alive, with Merce in Miami, a two-week celebration of his work led by MOCA and a small band of other local arts innovators at what was then the Carnival Center for the Performing Arts in February and March 2007. It was the prolific choreographer's first visit to Miami in his decade's long career.

"Merce in Miami broaden[s] the experience for artists and for audiences in Miami, to just give them a chance to a see a different side of what is happening in the arts," the center's former artistic director Justin Macdonnell told the Miami New Times.

Macdonnell is long gone and the Carnival Center is now the Adrienne Arsht Center. After a harsh confrontation with economic reality, the avant garde programming at our city's premiere venue has been scaled back dramatically in favor of seat-filling, crowd-pleasing entertainment. Well, you have to keep the lights on, right?

So instead of Merce's Ocean, the final collaboration between Cunningham and his life partner, experimental composer John Cage, now playing we have the dance club-meets-natural disaster spectacular, Fuerza Bruta, which is breaking attendance records at the Arsht. That doesn't mean it's bad -- quite the contrary.

But in a quiet moment, I can't help but long for the deliberate boredom of a Cage score and the slow unfolding of Cunningham's mediation on chance.

Fuerza Bruta runs through August 9 at the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts of Miami-Dade County: 1300 Biscayne Blvd., Miami;  305-949-6722. Tickets cost $60; $20 rush tickets raffled at door one-hour before showtime.

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