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Merce Cunningham Dance Company's REDCAT Benefit Raises Over 100k

REDCAT and the Cunningham Dance Foundation raised more than $100,000 at a special benefit on June 7th celebrating the legacy of the legendary choreographer Merce Cunningham. A full house of over 200 filled the intimate theater Roy and Edna Disney/CalArts Theater for the exclusive event featuring the final performance of the Merce Cunningham Dance Company (MCDC) in Los Angeles with special guest artist Mikhail Baryshnikov and a screening of Charles Atlas' film With Merce.

Held at REDCAT, located in the Walt Disney Concert Hall complex, the benefit hosted some of L.A.'s most influential cultural and business leaders as well as artists and performers including Mikhail Baryshnikov, hosts Sutton and Christian Stracke and Marisa Tomei, Debbie Allen, Decades owner CameRon Silver, Tim and Neda Disney, filmmaker Charles Atlas, Harriett Gold, Catharine and Jeffrey Soros, Joanna Going, Dylan Walsh. Additional attendees included REDCAT Executive Director Mark Murphy and Gallery Director and Curator Clara Kim; MCDC Executive Director Trevor Carlson as well as Rose Apodaca, Emi Fontana, Andre Pineda and Araceli Ruano, plus a number of performing and visual artists including Neil Greenberg, Rudy Perez, and Yvonne Rainer.

Patrons arrived at REDCAT to find the cocktail reception in full swing. Guests sipped champagne provided by Nicolas Feuillatte, enjoyed hors d'oeuvres passed by Patina, and mingled in the Gallery at REDCAT, viewing the exhibition Never Very Far Apart curated by Ryan Inouye. Adding a delicate touch of decor for the evening were beautiful floral arrangements by Dandelion Ranch. As guests shared stories about Merce, some recalling Occasion Piece (1999)--Mikhail Baryshnikov's first appearance with MCDC--the doors to the theater opened and the guests were greeted by the dancers finishing their warm ups onstage in front of Immerse, a drop created by Robert Rauschenberg in 1994 for MCDC Events and setting the stage for Occasion Piece2.

True to the Cunningham legacy, MCDC Director of Choreography Robert Swinston crafted an Event specifically for the June 7th benefit at REDCAT entitled Occasion Piece2 . Merce described Events as "consist[ing] of excerpts of dances from the repertory and new sequences arranged for the particular performance and place, with the possibility of several separate activities happening at the same time." Following this tradition, Occasion Piece2 incorporates Cunningham's choreography spanning decades and featuring Cunningham solos performed by Mikhail Baryshnikov for the first time.

"It is always an honor to be performing in the work of the great Merce Cunningham--my dear friend who taught me so much about life and art," said Mr. Baryshnikov, who performed alongside the choreographer in Occasion Piece (1999). "I am thrilled to be a part of the historic Legacy Tour and to share the stage with all these brilliant dancers." On Monday, Baryshnikov performed alongside fifteen members of the MCDC, with music by John Cage from Song Books, costumes by Anna Fink and lighting by Christine Shallenberg.

Following Occasion Piece2 REDCAT Executive Director Mark Murphy greeted the audience and introduced MCDC Executive Director Trevor Carlson, who noted the many personal connections MCDC has to REDCAT and introduced filmmaker and friend of the late choreographer, Charles Atlas. Atlas, gave a touching tribute to Cunningham on stage in his remarks and on screen with his film With Merce, a new video tribute including excerpts from noted films created by the award-winning filmmaker and video artist during his and Cunningham's more than 30-year collaboration exploring dance on film.

After the screening, guests headed back into REDCAT's lobby where they mingled with the performers prior to heading upstairs to the Walt Disney Concert Hall's Founder's Room for dinner. As the first course of Baby Arugula, Manchego Cheese, Red Delicious Apples, Dates, Walnuts, and Pistachio Vinaigrette was served, Executive Director Mark Murphy and CalArts President Steven D. Lavine welcomed guests, the MCDC and special guest artist Mikhail Baryshnikov. Patina Catering then served the main course of New York Tournedos with Sweet Corn-sotto, Asparagus, Red Wine Reduction and Smoked Paprika, and MCDC Executive Director Trevor Carlson introduced co-host for the benefit Sutton Stracke, who offered a touching toast to Merce Cunningham and the preservation of his artistic legacy. Fruit salad with lime juice, cupcakes and coffee were served and as the night ended, guests were invited to take home a special edition Legacy Tour poster designed by visual artist Jasper Johns in 2010. 

REDCAT, 631 West Second Street, Los Angeles, CA 90012

REDCAT is a vibrant laboratory where innovative artists from throughout Los Angeles and around the world gather to push the boundaries of creative expression. Through performances, exhibitions, film screenings, and literary events, REDCAT highlights today's adventurous young artistic voices along with the most influential artists of our generation. Opened by the California Institute of the Arts in 2003, REDCAT has become one of the most adventurous, wide-reaching and interdisciplinary organizations in Los Angeles.

On view at the Gallery at REDCAT through June 27, Never Very Far Apart, a group exhibition bringing together six projects that explore distance as both border and bridge--considering how one position may parallel or intersect with seemingly disparate places or distant times.

For more information and a full performance and exhibition schedule, please visit

The Cunningham Dance Foundation is dedicated to sustaining and advancing the creative work of Merce Cunningham (1919 - 2009)--choreographer, teacher and artist--through support of the Merce Cunningham Dance Company and Repertory Understudy Group; the Merce Cunningham Studio, which provides training in Cunningham Technique TM and oversees the Studio Performance Program for Young Artists and Educational Outreach; and the Merce Cunningham Archives. In 2009, the Foundation launched Mondays with Merce a pioneering web series that provides the public with behind-the-scenes access to Cunningham's creative process.

The first of its kind in the dance world, the Cunningham Dance Foundation's precedent-setting Legacy Plan delineates the future of the Merce Cunningham Dance Company and ensures the preservation of Merce Cunningham's artistic legacy. The multifaceted plan includes the celebratory two-year Legacy Tour, and also supports career transition for the dancers, musicians, and staff who have invested their time and creative efforts into the realization of Cunningham's vision, and provides for the creation of digital "Dance Capsules" that will bring Cunningham's work to life for future generations. The Legacy Plan is supported by an ongoing $8-million capital campaign. Additional information is available at

Photo Credit: Linda Lenzi

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