Merce Cunningham, 90, Plans Dance Company's Future

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AP
Choreographer Merce Cunningham is preparing for the future with a "living legacy" plan to preserve his life's work after the 90-year-old can no longer lead his dance company.

The Cunningham Dance Foundation on Tuesday detailed how his choreography will survive and continue to be performed.

The company and the foundation will close at a date to be determined after a two-year international tour, including a final New York performance with tickets he wants sold for only $10, foundation officials said in a statement. All assets _ from costumes and props to audio and video footage _ are to be transferred to the nonprofit Merce Cunningham Trust, which he has established to document his cutting-edge movements, sets and costumes.

His forays into novelty included, in the 1950s, the use of chance based on the "I Ching," the Chinese book of changes.

"My idea has always been to explore human physical movement," Cunningham said in the statement. "I would like the Trust to continue doing this, because dancing is a process that never stops, and should not stop if it is to stay alive and fresh."

An $8 million capital campaign is being launched in support of Cunningham's "Living Legacy Plan," with lead gifts including $1 million from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and $1 million from the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation.

The company continues to perform under Cunningham's leadership, maintaining its educational and training programs.

This spring, the company premiered a new Cunningham work called "Nearly Ninety," while posting a Web series called "Mondays with Merce" that allows the public to see him teach and work with dancers.

Famed for his innovations in dance, music, the visual arts, new media and technology, Cunningham has been at the forefront of avant-garde arts for six decades. He founded the Merce Cunningham Dance Company in 1953, often collaborating with the late composer John Cage.

Once the company closes, dancers, musicians and staff will be compensated and resources will be available for career transitions.

The trust will hold all rights to the choreography, which will be documented in digital form for future artists, students, scholars and audiences. Cunningham pieces will be studied or performed using videos of the original choreography, sound recordings, lighting plots, decor and costume design, as well as production notes and interviews with dancers and artistic staff.

The Cunningham Dance Foundation's plan "is comprehensive, multifaceted, and _ like Merce himself _ precedent-setting," said foundation executive director Trevor Carlson. "It offers a new model for dance companies and other artist-led organizations transitioning to a post-founder existence."