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"Spheres of Influence" celebrates artistic collaborations of choreographer Merce Cunningham and artist
Robert Rauschenberg

The Lewis Center for the Arts’ Program in Dance and the Princeton University Art Museum present an evening of dance and art inspired by the artistic collaborations between choreographer Merce Cunningham and visual artist Robert Rauschenberg. An exhibition, performance, and panel discussion celebrating the partnership between these two legendary artists will be presented on Thursday, February 14, from 6:30 to 9:30 p.m. at the Princeton University Art Museum. A reception will follow. The event is free and open to the public.

Cunningham (1919-2009) was considered one of the greatest forces in American dance and at the forefront of the avant-garde for more than 50 years. His frequent collaborations with other artists included musicians John Cage and David Tudor; visual artists Robert Rauschenberg, Jasper Johns, Roy Lichtenstein, Frank Stella, and Andy Warhol; and other designers and architects. Rauschenberg (1925-2008) served as the Merce Cunningham Dance Company’s resident designer from 1954 through 1964 and created “decór” (sets and costumes), for a number of the Company’s early works, many of them “Combines” in which non-traditional materials and objects were employed in innovative combinations.

The program begins in the museum’s Marquand Mather Gallery with an opportunity to view a selection of paintings, drawings, and prints from the 1960s and 1970s, including works by Rauschenberg created for Merce Cunningham Dance Company, on loan from the Robert Rauschenberg Foundation.  The exhibition is the first of several the museum will present through the new Rauschenberg Loan Bank Program, for which the museum was chosen as a pilot institution. 

Following a tour of the exhibition, s tudents from the Program in Dance will perform a MinEvent for Princeton, a unique combination of excerpts of Cunningham choreography, staged by Princeton alumnus Silas Riener ’06 in another of the museum’s galleries.  Riener is a former member of Merce Cunningham Dance Company, who The New York Times last year noted as, “one of the superlative performers of our day.” This performance follows a recent programming technique of the Cunningham Trust to present curated compilations of Cunningham’s groundbreaking works set to new music. The music for this performance is composed by Jeff Snyder, Co-Director of PLOrk (Princeton Laptop Orchestra), and Cenk Ergün, a graduate student in music composition.

The performance will be followed by a panel discussion moderated by visiting faculty member and frequent contributor to The New York Times, Claudia La Rocco, with Nancy Dalva, Merce Cunningham Trust Scholar-in Residence; John King, composer/performer and former co-director of the music committee for Merce Cunningham Dance Company; Abigail Sebaly, Cunningham Research Fellow at the Walker Art Center; and Riener.  A reception in the Sterling Morton Gallery will conclude the evening.

"This is one of those rare, not-to-be-missed evenings. We are so happy to join with the Princeton University Art Museum to honor these iconic artists,” notes Susan Marshall, Director of the Program in Dance. 

Audiences will have an opportunity to see a slightly different MinEvent of Cunningham choreography at the Program in Dance’s Spring Dance Festival being presented February 22 through 24 at the Berlind Theatre at McCarter Theatre Center. The Festival will also include student performances of excerpts of works by internationally recognized choreographers Mark Morris, Zvi Gotheiner and Karole Amitage, as well as the premiere of two new works by New York-based choreographers Raja Kelly and Laura Peterson created in collaborations with Princeton dance students.

Link to photos:

Photo caption 1: XOVER, 2007.  Choreography Merce Cunningham, music John Cage, décor and costumes Robert Rauschenberg, lighting Josh Johnson.  Rehearsal on the night before the first performance, October 5, 2007, Dartmouth College, Hanover, NJ. Dancers: Andrea Weber and Daniel Squire.
Photo credit 1:  © Anna Finke; courtesy of the Merce Cunningham Trust/Backdrop © Robert Rauschenberg Foundation/Licensed by VAGA, New York, NY

Photo caption 2: John Cage, Merce Cunningham, Robert Rauschenberg in 1964.
Photo credit 2: Sadler Wells, 1964. Image courtesy of the Merce Cunningham Trust / photo Douglas Jeffrey / © Victoria and Albert Museum, London.

Event Information


Thursday, February 14, 2013

6:30 - 9:30 PM 

Princeton University Art Museum


View Trailer


Robert Rauschenberg, American, 1925–2008: Untitled (Merce Cunningham Company), 2003. Inkjet print on paper, mounted on board, 81.9 x 29.8 x 3.8 cm. Robert Rauschenberg Foundation. Art © Robert Rauschenberg Foundation / Licensed by VAGA, New York, NY

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