Squaregame Video

1976, 25:46 min, b&w, sound

Squaregame Video is a video-dance collaboration between Merce Cunningham and Charles Atlas, recorded in the choreographer's Westbeth studio. As a video-dance (that is, a dance choreographed specifically for the camera), Squaregame represents a dynamic integration of mediums. True to its title, Squaregame's choreography fits in a square area within the larger rectangular space of the Westbeth studio stage.

Large white bags mark Squaregame's perimeter, with several placed in each of the four corners. Throughout the performance, the dancers use the bags not only as props but as extensions of their corporeal movement. They slowly lean on the bags, leap with them between their legs, pass them back and forth, and move them from one corner of the square to the other. A kind of playful ardor characterizes their movements, which read both as aesthetic and as everyday activities. The dancers rarely dance together or in sync; small groups sit down to watch others occupy the square. In an emphatic solo, Cunningham moves wildly as he gradually approaches the camera, until only his chest and lips fill the screen. He lunges forward, out of the camera's gaze, allowing the other dancers to move in as they rearrange bags and split off in groups of three. Cunningham reappears and the dancers start to imitate his movements, delineating tension between individual and collective posturing. His authorial presence trails off as the larger group takes prominence, posing with the bags as the lights go out and the sounds of Takehisa Kosugi's composition S.E. Wave/E.W. Wave Song continue.

Squaregame Video recalls artist Bruce Nauman's video Walking in an Exaggerated Manner Around the Perimeter of a Square (1967-8); Nauman cites Cunningham's idea that "you can take any simple movement and make it into a dance" as influential.

Choreography: Merce Cunningham. Directed by Charles Atlas. Music: Takehisa Kosugi, "S.E. Wave/E.W. Wave Song." Set and Costumes: Mark Lancaster. Dancers: Karole Armitage, Karen Attix, Ellen Cornfield, Merce Cunningham, Morgan Ensminger, Meg Harper, Susana Hayman-Chaffey, Catherine Kerr, Chris Komar, Robert Kovich, Raymond Kurshals, Julie Roess-Smith.