Merce Cunningham with Carolyn Brown at Westbeth, 1972. Photo by Wendy Perron. Source unknown.
Merce Cunningham and John Cage, c. 1971. Photo by James Klosty. Source unknown.
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.