cover image Dancing with Merce Cunningham

Dancing with Merce Cunningham

Marianne Preger-Simon. Univ. Press of Florida, $19.99 trade paper (176p) ISBN 978-0-8130-6485-7

In her insightful debut, former dancer Preger-Simon, a close friend and contemporary of the late choreographer Merce Cunningham (1919–2009), gives readers an unparalleled view of a modern dance genius. Preger-Simon met Cunningham in Paris during a college year abroad in 1949, and was inspired to join Cunningham’s eponymous dance troupe, following him to New York City along with fellow dancers Carolyn Brown and Karen Kanner and composer John Cage, Cunningham’s romantic partner. “Many of us dancers were somewhat in love with him,” Preger-Simon writes, “having little comprehension of homosexuality.” While Cunningham is celebrated as a dance genius today, his early days were lean, and Preger-Simon writes of her well-off father treating Cunningham and Preger-Simon to fine meals (“It was such a pleasure to be able to give him something, in exchange for all he gave us”). Preger-Simon also reminisces about the troupe’s early days, remembering such budget outings as a 22-hour bus trip to Asheville, N.C., in 1953. One of Cunningham’s oft-repeated sayings to Preger-Simon was “The only way to do it is to do it”—a philosophy by which the author has since lived her life. While Preger-Simon officially left the troupe in 1958 to have a baby, her friendship with Cunningham remained tight until his death in 2009. This slim volume is a sweet treat for dance and theater aficionados, as well as anyone interested in the arts. (Mar.)