After A Dancemaker Dies

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An urgent and lively documentary asking can - and should - modern dances survive the deaths of their makers? Isn't dance an art of the present tense? Presented by the dance programme-maker, Frances Byrnes.

Merce Cunningham and the German dance-theatre maker Pina Bausch both made masterworks which have been seminal in the development of modern dance theatre.

Both made a world onstage which did not exist anywhere else, and kingdoms off stage too: typically for the pioneers of modern movement, both established their own companies, named after them and dancing only their works.

Both choreographers changed their works, for different dancers, spaces, times.

Now they leave recordings of the art, not the art itself.

The art only exists in live performance.

This programme visits the Cunningham Studio in New York and Tanztheater Wuppertal to find out from their exceptional movers and shakers (Robert Swinston, Patricia Lent in the US, Dominique Mercy in Germany): What will happen to the dances? What qualities will make a few of their dances live on? Will having a Legacy Plan (as the Merce Cunningham Trust has) help?

We visit Josephine Ann Endicott (re-staging Kontakthof after Bausch) and Jeannie Steele (reviving RainForest without Cunningham): what are the challenges to keeping the dance alive - neither in aspic, nor overly altered?

It's early days for them.

After all, most dances by most dancemakers, have probably died.

Isn't that what dance goers love, the romance of loss and the yearning for another transient, transcendent moment?

Barbara Horgan (Director of the Balanchine Foundation) and Kenneth MacMillan's widow, Lady MacMillan, both inheritors and licensers of ballets, give a longer perspective of what lasts - and how.

Or should we let go? Dance is about now, about being in life, not revival.

Nancy Umanoff, the Executive Director of Mark Morris Dance Group, hasn't persuaded Mark to make a plan for his group's dances yet.

Frances Byrnes asks whether dances can or should survive the deaths of choreographers.

Merce Cunningham died last summer.

So did the German dance-theatre maker Pina Bausch.

Both grandees made masterworks which have been seminal in the development of modern dance theatre.

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