SUNDANCE 5 | THUR NOV 8 | 1:00 PM
Director: Charles Atlas
Composer: David Tudor and Andrew Culver
Running time: 100 min.
Mercier “Merce” Cunningham was an acclaimed American dancer and choreographer who, during his legendary career, had a profound influence on modern dance. Less than a year before Cunningham’s death at 90, he traveled with his company to the bottom of the granite Rainbow Quarry in Waite Park, Minnesota, for the final performance of his magnum opus, Ocean. Shot in the round and accompanied by a 150-member orchestra with musicians from the St. Cloud Symphony and the College of St. Benedict, the performance was filmed by director and visual artist Charles Atlas.
Atlas’ film opens by setting the stage for the performance. Crews work to transform the quarry, each job and action creating a rhythm and an anticipation of the unforgettable event to come. The lion’s share of the film faithfully documents the 90-minute performance, bursting with extraordinary choreography and Atlas’ unique and multiple viewpoints.
Alastair Macaulay for the New York Times notes, “One of the most disarming effects in Mr. Atlas’s Ocean is that at times the picture suddenly splits, vertically, into two images. Sometimes the division between right and left is just a minimal difference of angle and level, as if the view had suddenly been changed by a geological rift.”
Ocean is one of Cunningham’s most ambitious and visually arresting works. Atlas collaborated with Cunningham on multiple films through the choreographer’s 60-year career, each piece standing as a vital and imaginative interpretation of Cunningham’s important works.