Robert Swinston of Merce Cunningham Dance Company; photo Karli Cadel

Compagnie CNDC-Angers/Robert Swinston makes its Pillow debut this year with work by one of the greatest artistic innovators of the 20th century, Merce Cunningham.

Merce Cunningham Dance Company first appeared at the Pillow in 1955, on a shared program with ballet stars Alicia Alonso and Erik Bruhn, and the Spanish dancer Mariquita. The following year, the Pillow commissioned a new work from Cunningham, Nocturnes. Jacob’s Pillow founder Ted Shawn was reportedly displeased with the results, saying that he had requested a light work, to which Cunningham replied, “Well, it’s all in white.” It would be almost 30 years before the company appeared again at the Pillow. Since then, it had  seven engagements at Jacob’s Pillow as well as a co-sponsored MASS MoCA performance series in 2000. Catch a glimpse of Merce Cunningham Dance Company’s Pillow debut in 1955 on Jacob’s Pillow Dance Interactive in these excerpts below.

Merce Cunningham Dance Company in Septet in 1955
Merce Cunningham Dance Company in Banjo in 1955

The last time Cunningham saw his company perform was through a livestream of the company’s closing performance on the Ted Shawn Theatre stage at Jacob’s Pillow in 2009. This connection is further explored in the online essay The Day Merce Died by Sydney Skybetter.

“If we can trust anyone to uphold Merce Cunningham’s choreographic legacy, it’s Robert Swinston.”

Time Out

Dedicated to upholding this legacy of Merce Cunningham as well as creating his own choreography, Robert Swinston is also an alumnus of The School at Jacob’s Pillow (1972), a longtime dancer with the Merce Cunningham Dance Company, and later assistant to the choreographer and finally director of choreography. Swinston is an original trustee on the Merce Cunningham Trust, whose mission is to carry Cunningham’s legacy into the future, and is a revered holder of Cunningham’s body of work and revelatory technique. View Robert Swinston performing for the Merce Cunningham Dance Company in 2009  Sounddance on Jacob’s Pillow Dance Interactive below.

Robert Swinston of Merce Cunningham Dance Company in Sounddance in 2009

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Compagnie CNDC-Angers/Robert Swinston in 'Inlets 2'; photo Andrea Mohin