Merce Cunningham Summerspace / Exchange / Scenario
Ballet de l’Opéra de Lyon


In line with its strong affinity to the work and style of Merce Cunningham, the Ballet de l’Opéra de Lyon presents three pieces that have recently entered into its repertory. Together they provide us with an overview of the infinite variations and nuances of his relationship to movement, the musical, pictorial and choreographic elements of which laid down the foundations of a new form of abstraction.

Taking into account the multiple facets of dance which has been unceasing in its exploration of the formal possibilities of the human body, the amplitude of Merce Cunningham’s range of work makes it difficult to grasp in a global way. In order to provide a panorama of the various transformations that his work has undergone, the Ballet de l’Opéra is giving us a cross-section: three flagship pieces dating from 1958, 1978 and 1997, which together reveal the new territories opened up by the American master.
Summerspace is a perfect illustration of the lyrical abstraction of his debut works. It has clear links with the credo of the modernist painters, not only because of the artist Robert Rauschenberg’s set design, but also in the way the dancers project themselves onto the bare stage - as if they were bursts of colour or dots being projected onto a canvas, redefining the coordinates of the space as they move about the stage.
Twenty years later, Exchange reaffirmed this focus on the abstract, but on a larger scale. The stage became a platform for exchanges in which flows of movement organised according to different geometric models circulated in the space, unveiling a gestual-based architecture of extreme complexity. Lastly, Scenario testifies to the attention to detail that Merce Cunningham paid to all forms of creation: in addition to a composition comprised of thirteen modules, developed with the aid of the Danceforms software programme, and clothes by Rei Kawakubo – the Comme des Garçons designer – came the strange, stylised offset movements of the onstage bodies.
Estimated running time : 2h20 with intervals