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Ask the MCA: Box Office Recommendations

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Our MCA Stage season began a few weeks ago so we asked a few MCA Box Office staff which MCA Stage performance(s) they are most looking forward to attending.

Laura’s Picks

It is so hard to choose! Each performance has such a unique and exciting take, whether it's feeling the energy of the Dorrance dancers, grooving to Burnt Sugar, or becoming enamored with a tiny coal-mining puppet in Chiflón. But if I had to pick one, it's got to be Tesseract. Between the set design, use of film, and live performance, I can't wait to see how they shake up the viewers experience of bodies in motion.

Matti’s Picks

About ten years ago I was working in the MCA's Box Office when Merce Cunningham came to visit the museum. Frail, with silvery curls and smart puppy-dog eyes, Merce radiated charisma. I was star-struck and giddy and can you blame me? Merce was one of the premier choreographers of the 20th century and, as it turns out, a sweet guy. I immediately abandoned my post (don't tell my boss) and took Merce up to see a John Cage artwork in one of our galleries. (John Cage was Merce's partner in life and art.) Then I strongly urged him to take a ticket to Reggie Harris's sold out Puremovement being performed in our theater that afternoon. Merce gamely agreed to watch the performance and afterwards came out to thank me saying, “Well that was quite wonderful!” I swooned.

Seeing the choreography of Merce Cunningham changed my entire concept of what dance could be: dance could be a chance operation just as much as it could be a rehearsed and scripted movement. Instead of choreographing to music, Merce’s dances work around and against music in a way I find equal parts liberating and irritating. I’m hardwired to expect humans to dance in synchronicity with sound, and Merce’s art shakes up my expectations. After experiencing his work I began seeing everyday activities as dance and the sounds of the city as a kind of a reverse soundtrack.

This coming spring you’ll have the extraordinary opportunity to experience the artistry of Merce Cunningham in the MCA’s galleries and on the stage. With the upcoming lineup I find I can’t recommend just one. Instead, I encourage you to see every Merce-influenced program.

Whether you’re a dance junkie, an art lover, or a music nerd, Merce will surely make you swoon, too.

MCA Cunningham Event

A woman in a red leotard on her knees and a man in an orange leotard lying on his side pose in front of a large, roped-off black-and-white artwork.

Beacon Event at Dia:Beacon, in the Andy Warhol Shadows gallery. Pictured: Emma Desjardins, Koji Mizuta

Photo: Anna Finke, courtesy of the Merce Cunningham Trust. All rights reserved

1:30–2 pm, Event

Music for Merce

Music for Merce features an all-star cast of former Cunningham collaborators convened by guest curator John King.

Spektral Quartet Morton Feldman: String Quartet No. 2

Spektral Quartet

Photo: Elliot Mandel

This monumental project explores the limits of music and marks the Chicago debut of Morton Feldman's six-hour-long work. Recognized for works he composed for Merce Cunningham, Feldman wrote his Quartet No. 2 as a durational piece to explore the limits of physical and non-narrative music. A rarely heard and epic achievement, the music creates a trance-like focus.

Charles Atlas / Rashaun Mitchell / Silas Riener Tesseract

A dancer in orange leotard arches her back and rests on her elbows behind an open cube sculpture and against a bright green background. Her left hip is accentuated by a sharp cone in the same orange of her leotard.

Charles Atlas/Rashaun Mitchell/Silas Riener, Tesseract, 2015. Pictured: Melissa Toogood

Image courtesy of Charles Atlas, Rashaun Mitchell, Silas Riener, and EMPAC

3D film reaches contemporary dance in this voyage into queer space, time, and bodies. Choreographers Rashaun Mitchell and Silas Riener, both dancers who performed with the Merce Cunningham Dance Company, collaborate with radical video artist Charles Atlas on this new project that uses technology to shape new ways of seeing. Part film, part live performance, this event begins as a 3D viewing experience of dances composed for camera and unfolds into live dance with real-time video mixed and projected live by Atlas, allowing for multiple perspectives of bodies in motion.

Matti on the exhibition

Not quite convinced or in need of more Merce? I've got homework for you: come February, make sure to see the exhibition, Merce Cunningham: Common Time. Common Time is an homage to Merce's legacy and is sure to wow you with all the top notch artists he collaborated with (Frank Stella, Robert Rauschenberg, Jasper Johns—even Radiohead).