overview

The penthouse auditorium at Westbeth was the home of Merce Cunningham Dance Company from 1971 until it disbanded in 2010, a year after Cunningham’s death.

See Westbeth Artists’ Housing and Westbeth: Congregation Beit Simchat Torah for more information about this site’s LGBT history.

Header Photo
Credit: Christopher D. Brazee/NYC LGBT Historic Sites Project, 2016.

History

After studying with Martha Graham, Merce Cunningham (1919-2009) became a leading figure in the development of Modern dance in America. In 1944, Cunningham had his first solo performance to music by John Cage. Cage was Cunningham’s partner until his death in 1992; they lived nearby at 107 Bank Street.

Cunningham established his dance company in 1953, choreographing over 200 works, many in collaborations with visual artists, notably including Robert Rauschenberg. Cunningham’s first dance studio was located on the top floor of 69 West 14th Street from December 1959 to 1966. He later moved the studio to 498 Third Avenue and then to its last home at Westbeth in 1971. The Merce Cunningham Dance Company was housed in the former penthouse auditorium of 55 Bethune Street until it disbanded in 2010, a year after Cunningham’s death.

See Westbeth Artists’ Housing and Westbeth: Congregation Beit Simchat Torah for more information about this site’s LGBT history.

Entry by Andrew S. Dolkart, project director (May 2019).

NOTE: Names above in bold indicate LGBT people.

Building Information

  • Architect or Builder: McKenzie, Voorhees & Gmelin; Voorhees, Gmelin & Walker (alteration)
  • Year Built: 1924-26; 1931-34 (alteration)

Sources

  1. Richard Kostelanetz, ed., Merce Cunningham: The Modernizing of Modern Dance (New York: Routledge, 2004).

  2. Roger Copeland, Merce Cunningham: The Modernizing of Modern Dance (New York: Routledge, 2004).

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