Chance and Circumstance: Twenty Years with Cage and Cunningham

Front Cover
Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group, Dec 23, 2009 - Biography & Autobiography - 656 pages
The long-awaited memoir from one of the most celebrated modern dancers of the past fifty years: the story of her own remarkable career, of the formative years of the Merce Cunningham Dance Company, and of the two brilliant, iconoclastic, and forward-thinking artists at its center—Merce Cunningham and John Cage.

From its inception in the l950s until her departure in the l970s, Carolyn Brown was a major dancer in the Cunningham company and part of the vibrant artistic community of downtown New York City out of which it grew. She writes about embarking on her career with Cunningham at a time when he was a celebrated performer but a virtually unknown choreographer. She describes the heady exhilaration—and dire financial straits—of the company’s early days, when composer Cage was musical director and Robert Rauschenberg designed lighting, sets and costumes; and of the struggle for acceptance of their controversial, avant-garde dance. With unique insight, she explores Cunningham’s technique, choreography, and experimentation with compositional procedures influenced by Cage. And she probes the personalities of these two men: the reticent, moody, often secretive Cunningham, and the effusive, fun-loving, enthusiastic Cage.

Chance and Circumstance
is an intimate chronicle of a crucial era in modern dance, and a revelation of the intersection of the worlds of art, music, dance, and theater that is Merce Cunningham’s extraordinary hallmark.


From the Hardcover edition.

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CHANCE AND CIRCUMSTANCE: Twenty Years with Cage and Cunningham

User Review  - Kirkus

A diary of the author's two decades with Merce Cunningham's company.Brown first encountered Cunningham's cutting-edge choreography while taking a two-day master class given during his 1951 cross ... Read full review

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User Review  - jrduffy - LibraryThing

This extremely well-written, erudite, and professional memoir was an especially compelling read for me since I began my professional modern dance training "as an experiment", in a graduate level ... Read full review

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About the author (2009)

Carolyn Brown continues to work with the Cunningham company as an artistic consultant. She is a member of the Cunningham Dance Foundation Board of Directors, and has worked as a freelance choreographer, filmmaker, writer, lecturer, and teacher. She has been awarded the Dance Magazine Award, five National Endowment for the Arts grants, and a John Simon Guggenheim Fellowship. Her writing has been published in The New York Times, Dance Perspectives, Ballet Review, and the Dance Research Journal. She lives in Millbrook, New York.


From the Hardcover edition.

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