Carolyn Brown and Merce Cunningham
Carolyn Brown quite simply is one of the great American dancers. She performed with the Merce Cunningham Dance Company from 1953 to 1972. She was in virtually every piece that Cunningham choreographed in that 20-year period, more than 40 dances.
She was Cunningham’s frequent partner. Cunningham’s choreography demands speed, flexibility, intelligence, and control, as well as a great understanding of rhythm and an openness to abstraction.
In addition to Brown’s work as a dancer, she is also a teacher, writer, choreographer, filmmaker, and frequent reconstructor of Cunningham’s work.
Connection with Denishawn
Brown grew up dancing, first studying with her mother, Marion Rice. Rice studied in the late 1920s and early ‘30s with Ted Shawn and Ruth St. Denis, founding her own company, Marion Rice’s Denishawn Dancers, in the 1940s. Brown performed as a guest artist with her mother’s company at the Pillow in 1972.
Interview with Brown
In this excerpt from a 2003 PillowTalk, Brown talks about working with Merce Cunningham, John Cage, and whether dance can ever really be abstract when there are people dancing and people watching.
In 2007, Brown published her memoir: Chance and Circumstance: Twenty Years with Cage and Cunningham. That summer, she and choreographer Yvonne Rainer, who had also just released a memoir titled Feelings are Facts, participated in a PillowTalk called Modern Dance Icons.