Compagnie CNDC-Angers/Robert Swinston Make Jacob's Pillow Debut In Celebration Of Global Merce Cunningham Centennial

Jacob's Pillow presents the Pillow debut of Compagnie CNDC-Angers/Robert Swinston as part of the global Merce Cunningham Centennial, July 3-7 in the Ted Shawn Theatre. Under the direction of Robert Swinston, a longtime Merce Cunningham Dance Company member, later assistant to the choreographer, and finally director of choreography, France's National Center for Contemporary Dance/Angers brings three masterworks by Cunningham: Suite for Five, Inlets 2, and How to Pass, Kick, Fall, and Run. This celebratory program also features archival footage of Cunningham performing at Jacob's Pillow. The performance is the anchor event of a week-long exploration of this American master.

"We're thrilled that our contribution to the Merce Cunningham Centennial will be to give Compagnie CNDC-Angers its Pillow debut with an all Cunningham program. Cunningham protégéRobert Swinston is known for his vision and artistic rigor, and his dancers consistently perform some of the best Cunningham work done today," says Jacob's Pillow Director Pamela Tatge.

Merce Cunningham is widely considered one of the greatest artistic innovators of the 20th century, with a robust Pillow history that dates back to a company debut in 1955. An alumnus of The School at Jacob's Pillow, Swinston became CNDC-Angers' Artistic Director in 2013 with a goal of building on the legacy of Cunningham's iconic body of work through revitalized creativity. Time/Out NYC lauds, "If we can trust anyone to uphold Merce Cunningham's choreographic legacy, it's Robert Swinston." CNDC-Angers' New York premiere was "met with near euphoria" (Dance Magazine)and their work possesses "all qualities that make Cunningham's work feel alive and thoroughly timeless, perhaps more so with each passing year" (Marina Harss,DanceTabs).

Suitefor Five (1953-1958) was created by adding a trio, a duet, and a quintet to Cunningham's earlier "Solo Suite in Space and Time." The classic purity and tranquility of Suite for Fiveis acknowledged in the program note which reads, "The events and sounds of this work revolve around a quiet center, which though silent and unmoving, is the source from which they happen." The musical composition and choreography relied on the imperfections in paper and on change operations; the music is avant-garde composer John Cage's "Music for Piano". Robert Rauschenberg designed the earth-toned leotards, with lighting by Beverly Emmons.

Inlets 2is one of Cunningham's best known nature studies and was created through chance operations to determine the order of the 64 movements. The choreography is commonly linked to the climate and topography of the Pacific Northwest where Cunningham was raised (in Centralia, Washington). The music is Cage's original score for Inlets, Mark Lancaster designed new costumes for Inlets 2with leotards and tights in gray, blue, or brown, over which some of the women wear tulle skirts.

How to Pass, Kick, Fall and Run(1965) is a frolic with an athletic theme, without any specific reference to games. The choreography keeps the dancers constantly in motion, with two or three movements simultaneously occurring on stage at all times. The dancers originally wore tights and sweaters that they chose themselves, with music by Cage which includes anecdotes from Cage's writings in A Year from Monday, read out loud on stage. Swinston won a Bessie Award for his role as a dancer and for his participation with Cunningham and Carolyn Brown in the reconstruction of the 2003 revival.


Merce Cunningham (1919-2009) is considered one of the greatest artistic innovators of the 20th century. His seven-decade career was distinguished by constant innovation which expanded the frontiers of contemporary art, visual art, performing arts, and music. The Merce Cunningham Centennial unites artists, companies, and cultural and educational institutions in a multifaceted display and celebration of Cunningham's visual impact.

Jacob's Pillow features several events throughout the summer in honor of the Centennial. This includes a Festival-long lobby exhibit in the Doris Duke Theatre that displays an abstract virtual reality portrait of Cunningham created by digital artists Paul Kaiser and Marc Downie from a motion-captured performance of one of Cunnginham's solo dances for hands; a related virtual reality experience offered in Blake's Barn, the home of the Jacob's Pillow Archives; a PillowTalk with Kaiser and Downie on July 5; a PillowTalk with long-time Cunningham dancer Marianne Preger-Simon about her new book on July 6; and a showing of the film Merce Cunningham: A Lifetime in Dance by Charles Atlas on July 7.


The National Center for Contemporary Dance, CNDC, was created in 1978 at the initiative of the Ministry of Culture and the City of Angers. The CNDC, which became a national choreographic center (CCN) in the 1990s, reinforces its mission as a choreographic center through the production of shows and as a training center. The directors of CNDC since its creation include Alwin Nikolais, Viola Farber, Michel Reilhac, Nadia Croquet, Joëlle Bouvier and Régis Obadia, and Emmanuelle Huynh.

Robert Swinston became CNDC's Artistic Director in 2013. For Compagnie CNDC-Angers he created the Cunningham Event;Four Walls Doubletoss Interludes; Deli Commedia Variation(adaptation of Cunningham/Caplan Video Dance); and Debussy's La Boîte à Joujoux,for young audiences. He has staged Cunningham works for companies such as the White Oak Dance Project, Rambert Dance Company, New York City Ballet, and the Paris Opera. In 2003, Robert Swinston was awarded a Bessie for the reconstruction and performance in How to Pass, Kick, Fall and Run (1965).

Prior to his time at CNDC, Swinston was director of choreography at the Merce Cunningham Trust in 2012 and the Merce Cunningham Dance Foundation for the repertoire, pedagogy, and educational programs from 2010 to 2011. Throughout his career, Robert Swinston has taught around the world. The artist has extensive pedagogical experience at the Merce Cunningham Studio & Dance Company, the Juilliard School, Montclair State College, Purchase College, UC Berkeley, Rambert Dance Company, London Contemporary Dance School, CNSMD Paris and Lyon, and the National School of Dance in Cannes.

Robert Swinston was a performer for the José LimónDance Company (1978-1980) and the Kazuko Hirabayashi Dance Theater (1972-1982) before joining the Merce Cunningham Dance Company in 1980. In 1992, he became the choreographer's assistant and continued to interpret the works. Swinston was born in Pittsburgh, PA. He attended Middlebury College and the Juilliard School, where he earned a Bachelor of Fine Arts.


Merce Cunningham (1919-2009) formed his company in 1953, which made its Pillow debut just two years later. After returning the very next season, Cunningham's work was absent from the Pillow for nearly 30 years, though the connections multiplied between 1984 and 2009 when he received the Jacob's Pillow Dance Award. The last time Cunningham saw his company dance was the 2009 performance of Sounddance (performed by Swinston), streamed to his laptop just a few days before his death on the same day the company closed its final Pillow engagement. A memorable 2007 interview with Cunningham was included in the Pillow documentary, Never Stand Still, released in 2011.

Robert Swinston studied on scholarship in The School at Jacob's Pillow in 1971, the final season directed by Pillow founder Ted Shawn. In addition to his many Pillow appearances with Cunningham, Swinston also performed in the 2012 cast of The Men Dancers: From the Horse's Mouth.

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