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Chance and Circumstance: Twenty Years with Cage and Cunninghamby Carolyn Brown
Synopses & Reviews
The long-awaited memoir from one of the most celebrated modern dancers of the past fifty years: the story of her own remarkable career, of the formative years of the Merce Cunningham Dance Company, and of the two brilliant, iconoclastic, and forward-thinking artists at its center-- Merce Cunningham and John Cage.
From its inception in the l950s until her departure in the l970s, Carolyn Brown was a major dancer in the Cunningham company and part of the vibrant artistic community of downtown New York City out of which it grew. She writes about embarking on her career with Cunningham at a time when he was a celebrated performer but a virtually unknown choreographer. She describes the heady exhilaration-- and dire financial straits-- of the company's early days, when composer Cage was musical director and Robert Rauschenberg designed lighting, sets and costumes; and of the struggle for acceptance of their controversial, avant-garde dance. With unique insight, she explores Cunningham's technique, choreography, and experimentation with compositional procedures influenced by Cage. And she probes the personalities of these two men: the reticent, moody, often secretive Cunningham, and the effusive, fun-loving, enthusiastic Cage.
Chance and Circumstance is an intimate chronicle of a crucial era in modern dance, and a revelation of the intersection of the worlds of art, music, dance, and theater that is Merce Cunningham's extraordinary hallmark.
Carolyn Brown, one of the most renowned dancers of the last half-century, lived at the center of New York's bold and vibrant artistic community, which included not only dancers and choreographers but composers and painters as well. Brown's memoir recounts her own remarkable twenty-year tenure with the Merce Cunningham Dance Company and provides a first-hand account of a pivotal period in twentieth-century art.
From the 1950s to the 1970s, Brown developed close relationships with musical director John Cage and set-designer Robert Rauschenberg and with Cunningham himself. Brown's memoir reveals the personal dynamics between the reserved and moody Cunningham and the playful and ebullient Cage, as well as the controversial yet undeniably brilliant creativity that resulted when the two collaborated. Brown relates the company's rise from its cash-strapped early years when the group traveled by VW bus to perform in small venues to the 1964 world tour that left the group exhausted but finally brought them large-scale acclaim.
A unique chronicle of the avant-garde's struggle for acceptance, Brown's memoir provides a riveting first-hand account of a little-documented era in modern dance that nonetheless had a tremendous impact on the course of art in the twentieth century.
About the Author
Carolyn Brown continues to work with the Cunningham company as an artistic consultant. She is a member of the Cunningham Dance Foundation Board of Directors and has worked as a freelance choreographer, filmmaker, writer, lecturer, and teacher. She has been awarded the Dance Magazine Award, five National Endowment for the Arts grants, and a John Simon Guggenheim Fellowship. Her writing has been published in the New York Times, Dance Perspectives, Ballet Review, and the Dance Research Journal. She lives in Millbrook, New York.
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