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Document(s): Commence to Dancing

Document(s): Commence to Dancing

“Commence to Dancing” is from the Document(s) series, a library of commentary on people and issues in the dance field. This repository of essays includes interviews by writers and thinkers on dance, as well as “dance discursions,” which offer opportunities for reflection on the field of dance commissioned by The Pew Center for Arts & Heritage.

David Vaughan served as the archivist of the Cunningham Dance Foundation and is the author of Merce Cunningham/Fifty Years (Aperture, 1997) and of Frederick Ashton and his Ballets (revised edition, Dance Books, 1999). The following article is his address to the Dance Critics Association at Dance New Amsterdam in New York City on June 17, 2007, on the occasion of his receiving the Senior Critics Award.

From the address:

“After five years I went back to England for a year, ostensibly to decide where I wanted to live, though I knew perfectly well that it was here in New York City. During that year I wrote a series of articles for Dance and Dancers about what I had seen in America. Remy Charlip showed Merce what I had written about him, and when I came back I started taking his class again, and got to know him, which led to the association that has lasted ever since. When he opened a studio of his own in December 1959, in the Living Theater building on the corner of 14th Street and Sixth Avenue, he asked me to be the studio secretary, which I was, for $15 a week. I was the whole staff at that time. I immediately started organizing the programs and clippings which Merce, in time-honored fashion, used to throw into a cardboard box when he came back from tour. In 1976 Jean Rigg, by then the company’s chief administrator, secured a pilot grant from the NEA to employ me as archivist for two years, thus formalizing what I was doing for my own interest. Here it is 30 years later, and I’m still at it. Of course my book, Merce Cunningham/Fifty Years is a project of the archives—so too is the exhibition that opened at the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts in June 2007, together with the NYPL Jerome Robbins Dance Division and the John Cage Trust.”

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