Merce Cunningham is one of the most influential choreographers in modern dance and this Royal Ballet triple bill, part of the company’s centenary celebrations, underlines that influence.
The programme opens with Cunningham’s Cross Currents, a work that epitomises the choreographer’s distinct style and playful interest in form and structure. Cunningham was not afraid to show the technical effort in his work and the precision of the piece becomes evident on the brightly lit stage. The clear lines and shaping require the utmost control from the three dancers as they revolve around each other, their paths intersecting.
Frederick Ashton’s Monotones II, inspired by Cunningham, takes that precision and control and imbues it with a softer, classical edge. The movement reflects the lyricism of Satie’s Trois Gymnopédies. It takes effort to move this elegantly. Another piece for three dancers, this time in sparkling white catsuits, it plays with formation but it also has a tender quality, an exquisite softness.
The evening closes with the premiere of Everyone Keeps Me by Pam Tanowitz. Drawing on Cunningham’s style, Tanowitz combines precision with playfulness. The dancers skip and hop across the stage, and flex their feet at inconvenient moments. Occasionally they recline at the edges of the stage, watching the others. This adds a touch of humour and humanity to the piece.
As with each work in this programme, Everyone Keeps Me has its own distinct character, but it also holds within it an echo of Cunningham’s long-lasting influence.