Letter from Meg Harper


Meg Harper, the oldest Cunningham rehearsal director and thus our primary source of knowledge about Merce in the prime of his dancing career, wrote this letter to the students following the April 27th showing. I quote it here in full:


May 2, 2012


Dear Yale Dance Theater Company,


It is Wednesday, and Jennifer and I are thinking about you, wondering what might be happening to each of you, a week after the exquisite end of our journey together. Your work through this long period, from January until last Friday afternoon, has given me more pleasure than any Cunningham/repertory project in my recent memory.  You welcomed Jennifer and I with such fresh faces, always so considerate and accommodating.  I was immediately struck by how open you all were, and respectful, even if you had doubts.  Doubts and ambivalence are good things, especially if they are examined carefully, as you did.  There are so many ways to work, and the Cage/Cunningham aesthetic is just the one we were presenting to you.  I never have a “goal” in situations like this, but I do have hopes.  And one huge hope was that you would embrace these extraordinary ideas and gather strength from them.


The time spent in the Payne Whitney Gymnasium was so special.  I had anxiety about how you would deal with the space, with so little time to make it feel like “your space, your home”.  You took to it like horses to a field, and suddenly, it was a place where Merce Cunningham and John Cage’s work opened out from the floor and walls as naturally as the movement of the athletes with their basketballs.  Performing in alternative spaces was such an integral part of our dancing lives, so to share this with you was Kool.


Now I get to the mystery.  What ever happened between Thursday afternoon and Friday’s performances?  I knew it was going to be ok, I mean even good, when we left the gym on Thursday.  But it was beyond “good.”  The way each of you danced, sat on the side, entered and exited was so moving to Jen and I, and to the many audience members who know Merce’s work. You brought back into this bright gymnasium the most elemental and moving aspects of their art.  There was a truth and realness to your actions.  I kept looking to you for help in my speaking role, saying to myself, “look at them, at what they are doing; stay as focused and real as they are, and it will be all right.”


Plus, it was such a good time we had. So many big laughs, especially towards the end when we knew the “jig was up”.  Each one of you, as beautiful individuals remain in our memory, dancing with total commitment, all of your vital energy focused on the task at hand.  The Payne Whitney Gymnasium has been changed forever, because you brought something to it that it had never experienced before.  Those walls will remember.


Fondly, Meg