1964, 20:10 min, b&w, sound

Story was one of Cunningham's most improvisational dances; indeterminate in composition, it changed in tone and structure—depending on the theater—from performance to performance. The film documents the dance as performed in Finland during the Merce Cunningham Dance Company's six-month world tour in 1964. This particular theater had a moving circular platform on the stage, which was utilized during the performance. For this dance, Cunningham composed a set of movement phrases from which the dancers could pull freely. Similarly, the dancers could utilize an array of costumes and props.

Continuing this free-form sensibility, Robert Rauschenberg, the Company's then-visual director, constructed several of his signature "combines" for Story's sets. Each set for Story was different, as Rauschenberg worked site-specifically from objects found around the theater on the day of the performance. In this case, a part of a car accompanies a Duchampian assemblage dominated by two bicycle wheels. Cunningham performs in Story himself, at one point commanding the stage alone while a man in a suit creeps behind him with a large triangular object.

The performers exchange parts not only amongst themselves, but on occasion with the conductor, who, like the dancers, is also free to produce sounds. Performed by John Cage and David Tudor, the erratic industrial sounds of Toschi Ichiyanagi's composition Sapporo reflects the changing character of the mise-en-scène (sustaining sounds that are constant in pitch or sliding alternate with vibrant, sudden and shocking noises) especially as the stage rotates with a steady creak.

The title refers not to any implicit or explicit narrative, but to the fact that every spectator may interpret the events in his own way. Story resists definite narrative, instead positing the immediacy of its kinetic assemblage of movement, sound and setting as possible "story."

Choreography: Merce Cunningham. Directed by Hakki Seppala. Music: Toschi Ichiyanagi, "Sapporo." Set and Costumes: Robert Rauschenberg. Produced by the Finnish Broadcasting Company.


See also