Merce Cunningham's modern dancers to make final Penn State appearance

January 12, 2011

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- Merce Cunningham, who died at age 90 in 2009, was a giant figure in American modern dance -- both as a choreographer and a dancer. The Merce Cunningham Dance Company’s final tour, which will visit Penn State for a performance at 7:30 p.m. on Saturday, Feb. 12, in Eisenhower Auditorium, showcases seminal works from Cunningham’s career and provides the last chance to see his choreography performed by the company he trained.

The scheduled program for the Center for the Performing Arts presentation includes "Duets," "Second Hand" and "Sounddance."

Tickets are $38 for an adult, $15 for a University Park student and $28 for a person 18 and younger. Buy tickets online at or by phone at 814-863-0255. Outside the local calling area, dial 800-ARTS-TIX. Tickets also are available at four State College locations: Eisenhower Auditorium (weekdays 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.), Penn State Tickets Downtown in the Downtown Theatre Center (weekdays 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Saturdays 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.), HUB-Robeson Center Information Desk (weekdays 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.) and Bryce Jordan Center (weekdays 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.). A grant from the University Park Allocation Committee makes Penn State student prices possible.

Go to for more information about the dance company.

"Duets," which debuted in 1980 in New York City, is a series of dances for six couples set to John Cage’s score of electronic manipulations of Mel Mercier and Peadar percussion music. During each of the duets, another couple makes a short traversal of the stage. At the end, all six couples dance together.

"Second Hand," with music by Cage and costume design by painter Jasper Johns, was first performed in 1970. The three-movement work includes a male solo, a male-female duet and a group dance.

Cunningham had hoped to set the work to a Cage piano arrangement of Erik Satie’s Socrate, which had been composed for small orchestra and four sopranos. But Satie’s estate refused permission for the use of Socrate both in its original form and in a Cage arrangement. So Cage composed music based on the structure and phraseology of Satie’s composition.

The title of "Sounddance," first performed in 1975, comes from a line in James Joyce’s Finnegans Wake.

“I felt like doing something vigorous, fast, complex,” Cunningham said. The work, set to music by David Tudor, features 10 dancers.

Penn State International Dance Ensemble Endowment underwrites dance presentations at the Center for the Performing Arts. Artistic Viewpoints, an informal moderated discussion featuring a visiting artist or local expert, is offered in Eisenhower one hour before the performance and is free for ticket holders. Artistic Viewpoints regularly fills to capacity. Seating is available on a first-arrival basis.

Last Updated January 25, 2011