One of the modern dance field’s greatest innovators, Merce Cunningham was born in 1919 and began dance studies in his native Washington. He joined the Martha Graham Company at the age of twenty (as the group’s second male, following Erick Hawkins). His own company was established in 1953, and was filmed during its first Pillow appearance two years later. The first performance of Banjo, a lighthearted piece of Americana, had been given at Black Mountain College and featured Paul Taylor in the cast. In 2009, the Jacob’s Pillow Dance Award was presented to Cunningham and his company performed a retrospective program ending with Sounddance. The last time Cunningham saw his company dance was a Pillow performance streamed to his laptop just a few days before his death in July 2009, on the same day the company closed its final Pillow engagement.