Not a moment too soon

Not a moment too soon is a multidisciplinary performance piece about a shared journey, the end of Merce Cunningham’s life in which he was gracefully accompanied by Trevor Carlson.

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In the winter of 2001, in his dressing room in Australia, Merce Cunningham states to his reflection in the mirror the line “not a moment too soon” while capturing himself on his personal camcorder. At this stage Merce was 79 years old. For three years prior, and for the next nine his hands had been held by his executive director and accomplice Trevor Carlson.

Cunningham, one of the greatest 20th century choreographers and who’s companion in life and most frequent collaborator was the revolutionary composer John Cage, who introduced Cunningham to eastern philosophies, is very telling as he made this statement. The quote “not a moment too soon” represents a life-long bond to eastern thinking that marked a dent into the tapestry of contemporary dance and which was, in that moment, also tapping into his last moments in life.

Not a moment too soon is a multidisciplinary performance piece about a shared journey, the end of Merce Cunningham’s life in which he was gracefully accompanied by Trevor Carlson. A memory of how year-by-year Cunningham continued creating new pieces until his last breath. A pilgrimage into a memory which uses audio-visual vehicles that transport us into the image and voice of Cunningham through unseen footage, tapes shot by Cunningham himself. Trevor, our guiding voice, embodies this passage and permits us a final entry into the last days of a master.

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Premiere in BARCELONA 14, 15 & 16 of OCTOBER, 2016 at Mercat de les Flors.

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aThorus Arts logo production

Director & Choreographer
FERRAN CARVAJAL

Dramaturg
ALBERT TOLA

Video Creation
MIQUEL ÀNGEL RAIÓ

Composer
JAUME MANRESA

Wardrobe Design
ALEJANDRO ANDÚJAR

Photography (Cunningham’s Hands)
MARK SELIGER

Movement Coach
JOAN PALAU

Documentation – Making of
ELISABETH PRANDI, GUAYARMINA AMADOR & YOANA MIGUEL

Video Technician
TOMEU FIOL

Graphic Design
CAROL PÉREZ

Performer
TREVOR CARLSON

Texts by
TREVOR CARLSON & ALBERT TOLA

Set Designer
MAX GLAENZEL

Ligthing Design
MARÍA DOMÈNECH

Sculpture Design
CASEY CURRAN

Photography by
MARK SELIGER & THORUS ARTS

Assistant Director
OCTAVI DE LA IGLESIA

Technical Director
XAVIER SALAVERT

Operation Motion Graphics
ALEX ROMERO

Constructor
OSCAR HERNÁNDEZ POL

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Executive Producer
THORUS ARTS

Producer
ANABEL LABRADOR

Producers
Thorus Arts & Mercat de les Flors

Commissioners
Katherine Hayes, Mary Rice & Sutton Stracke

This Project is supported by the Robet Rauschenberg Foundation.

Major Support Provided by
Sandra Cornelius, Kim Cullen & David Taylor, Nancy Dalva, Molly Davies, Carolina Nitsch, Judith Pisar, Pamela Schaeffer, Mark Seliger, & Holly Sidford

Additional Support by
El Graner & La Caldera

Special Thanks
Arnie Apostol, Bande à part, Brummell Hotel, Deborah Ceballos, Marta Filella, Kathleen Fluegal, Fractured Atlas, Santiago Latorre, the Team at Mercat de les Flors, Merce Cunningham Trust, Marta Oliveres, David Quinn, Toni Racklin, Kevin Taylor and very special thanks to Laura Kuhn

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The videos of Merce Cunningham; held in a private collection in New York, and generously made available without restriction.

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Dedicated to the memory of Albert Sanagustín.

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During the performances in Barcelona on the 14th, 15th & 16th of October, Hotel Brummell is pleased to offer a discount of 20% to donors of Not A Moment Too Soon.

Tax-deductible donations to Thorus Arts can be made via Fractured Atlas .

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“Merce Cunningham’s work is an on-going preparation for the impact of freedom”

Peter Brook

 

Not a moment too soon looks promising.

The impression of being faced by a preordained project becomes clear immediately. It is as if its development was the inevitable result of the existence of a series of materials and events: the project organized itself, so to speak. Summoned into being by the remarkable partnership of Merce Cunningham and his accomplice and executive director Trevor Carlson. And by the fact that Ferran Carvajal has worked personally with Trevor since 2007 and became an ad hoc witness to that partnership for a while. And because the latter became part of this project following the intuition of the former and due to the fact that Trevor gave Merce a camcorder which he used to record himself: because this material exists (!). And because Trevor Carlson took such fervent care of The Legacy Plan for the Merce Cunningham Dance Company, implying an accumulation of reflections on a issue of burning intensity: the survival of the personal and artistic legacy after the death of an artist or creator when the material they worked with is as ephemeral as the body in movement.

The interest in the raw material is joined by the interest aroused by the artistic challenge involved in making a show lying somewhere between documentary, biopic and video art, harvesting a fruit as slippery and uncertain as memory. Intimate, always subjective, treacherous. Using dance and its potential to generate endless semantic summations in the space of the unsaid; trying to press the exact buttons of a memory – and doing so in the right measure – so as not to distort it in its transition to the stage. Which is like taking a ship out of the bottle without taking it to bits, piece by piece, attainable only by shining a light from a corner to project a mirage of the sails on the other side of the glass.

Awakening a mirage: this is how Carvajal and his playwright, Albert Tola, describe the onstage aspirations of Not a moment too soon: “Merce is reflected in Trevor, and Trevor in the public.” They propose a sentimental journey through the memory of a subject, going beyond a purely documentary vocation to reach more subliminal, interstitial territory, lying between the facts: the reconstruction of personal memory and the emotions this arouses in the narrator and the audience that listens to, sees and experiences it.

 

But the sensitivity of the material also stems from the particularities of the private life under observation. Like it or not, Not a moment too soon attracts the attention of the slightly morbid, nosy neighbour everyone has inside, only too happy to get a glimpse of the “real” Merce Cunningham through the recorded images; peering through a crack at fragments of a life shared with Carlson and governed perhaps by the postulate of “not a moment too soon” as the epitome of timelessness (the concept of Zen philosophy that so influenced the great love of Cunningham’s life, John Cage).

A postscript for the hard-to-please: bearing in mind that Merce Cunningham is the father of video dance, a point of added choreographic interest is precisely seeing how video is used in the show to merge all the dimensions of time into one: the present. And seeing how Carvajal, Tola and Carlson create this show as a tribute to a memory of intimacy, which emerges at the moment of presentation and not a moment too soon. And how this present event fits in – if it does fit in – with the use of video made by Cunningham himself in his particular crusade: to present dance as a fleeting moment and nothing more, beautiful and good to watch for its own sake, without additions.

Cunningham aimed to create a dance supposedly devoid of the emotional chain of meaning linking body and metaphor, and turn it, by contrast, into an open intellectual and aesthetic event. He wanted to avoid at all costs dictating to the audience what or how to watch. Using chance as a compositional resource, for example, he turned the stage into an anthropic universe of infinite possibilities and developed dance through compositions that appeared by order of the laws of probability. Full stop! The phrase “not a moment too soon” can also refer to this way of doing things: dance that calls itself into being at just the right moment. Neither before nor after, and not decided by anyone.

Let’s recap. The postscript refers to Merce Cunningham’s poetics, using the pretext of presenting a show related to the choreographer. But Not a moment too soon is not intended to be a piece by or in the style of Merce Cunningham. In fact, the first and last aspiration of the show is of a more universal order: to find sufficiently porous elements in the story of a subjective memory to live the imprint that one life has made on another life. And generate, in doing so, a new imprint: from Merce to Trevor, and from Trevor to the audience. What an aspiration. What a gift.

Jordi Ribot Thunnissen