Sometimes inevitable, the ephemerality of art is a blessing and a curse. While it can be difficult to think about an expiration or even death of a work of art, it simultaneously ensures it’s integrity. This is especially the case with dance, because it is so difficult to preserve. Video documentation is often subjective, and may end up misleading future performers or choreographers; causing an unintentional departure from the original intent. Plus, so much is contingent on the personal relationship between choreographer and dancer. Remove any part of that equation and the issues begin to surface.

While conceptual performance artists like Tino Seghal may deal with this on a conceptual or even farcical level– by mandating that no documentation may be created, and that the re-performance of his works must completely rely on oral knowledge transmission from dancers or the artist himself– the issue remains that video documentation and labanotation (a linguistic and illustrative notation for dance) most often do not suffice for contemporary dance works.

As great contemporary choreographers such as Merce Cunningham and Pina Bausch leave our physical realm, their works may be put at risk for evolution or atrophe. Merce Cunningham’s Company has taken specific measures for his live performances with the ‘Legacy Plan,’ which has been created to celebrate the artist’s career and life by performing them on one last tour, but also to set a finite end to the physical life of the individual works.

As outlined in the Legacy Plan, the Company will disband following this final tour.

from Merce.org:

A cornerstone of the Cunningham Dance Foundation’s precedent-setting Legacy Plan, the Legacy Tour is a celebration of Cunningham’s lifetime of artistic achievement and a testament to the choreographer’s enduring genius. Launched in February 2010, the two-year tour offers audiences around the world a final opportunity to see Cunningham’s choreography performed by the company he personally trained. The Legacy Tour will showcase 18 seminal works from throughout Cunningham’s career—including the revival of seven dances from past Company repertory—and will highlight the collaborations with artistic innovators such John Cage, Jasper Johns, Radiohead, and Robert Rauschenberg that characterized Cunningham’s creative life.

Currently encompassing some 40 cities, the Legacy Tour will bring the Merce Cunningham Dance Company to new destinations around the world and includes performances at venues throughout Europe and the United States that have been pivotal in showcasing the Company for the past 50 years. The Tour will culminate with a New Year’s Eve performance in New York City—MCDC’s home since it was founded in 1953—on December 31, 2011, with tickets priced at $10.

Come March 22-27, New Yorkers will have the extraordinary opportunity to see Cunningham’s choreography performed by the final group of dancers he personally trained in a repertory program that has not been seen in New York for decades. This profoundly moving engagement will include two Cunningham masterworks — CRWDSPCR and Quartet, and will conclude with Antic Meet, an iconic piece, not seen since 1969, that captures the exuberant and collaborative spirit that existed between the choreographer and Robert Rauschenberg. This will be the final Joyce season before disbanding in December 2011 at the end of the two-year Legacy Tour.

The Merce Cunningham Dance Company’s first Joyce season, taking place in 1984, featured a ten‐day series of Cunningham’s signature Events, in which Cunningham and his dancers performed to live music by company musicians John Cage, Takehisa Kisugi, and David Tudor.

Labanotation pics: