Cunningham's Dance Analysis

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Cunningham’s choreography from the 1950s exemplified the way in which he studied ballet to form a modern technique. Septet, choreographed in 1953, featured six dancers in traditional ballet practice clothes, though instead of ballet shoes they were barefoot. In the film of a 1964 performance in Helsinki, Finland, the balletic influences are clearly visible from the beginning of the work. In the first of the seven sections, the lights rise on three statuesque dancers in a diagonal line across the stage. As the lights settle we see a male figure dressed in black start to weave his way around and through the three female statues. The females slowly start to shift positions, fluidly dancing a balletic adagio. Throughout this section the women execute stretched développés devant and long penchés from …show more content…
Paired with these classical movements we see their arms crossed at the wrist, elbows straight to create an X-shape. In contrast to the slow balletic lines, the women also execute parallel jumps with their arms curving over their heads, contractions that soften their upright torsos, and lateral C-curves. The first section demonstrates that Cunningham began his choreography thinking about the shapes of ballet, then going beyond those familiar forms he explored how the torso could move out of them to create new shapes and movements. This section also reflects classical ballet in the way the women are featured, three regal and controlled women with one man weaving between them, noticing each of them in turn. The women are the subjects of this first section; the man is simply there to enjoy them.
The third section of Septet continues to uphold these balletic gender norms, as a duet enters upstage with the male, Merce Cunningham, leading the

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