Photo of Merce Cunningham by Gerda Peterich.

 HMD presents the 2019 Bridge Project
Signals from the West:
Bay Area Artists in Conversation with Merce Cunningham at 100
in collaboration with the Merce Cunningham Trust, ODC Theater and SFMOMA/Open Space

HMD’s 2019 Bridge Project is a Merce Cunningham Centennial Community Program.

Public Workshop and Audition for Dancers August 10 & 11 Register HERE
Residency for Commissioned Artists August 12-23, 2019
Performances November 8 & 9, 2019
All events at ODC Theater


Signals from the West: Bay Area Artists in Conversation with Merce Cunningham at 100 is a bicoastal collaboration with the Merce Cunningham Trust, ODC Theater and SFMOMA’s Open Space as part of the international celebration of the Cunningham centennial.  Signals from the West will commission ten Bay Area artists from diverse disciplines and backgrounds to participate in a workshop August 12-23, 2019, with former Cunningham dancers Rashaun Mitchell and Silas Riener and create new works of art in response. These works will be presented alongside excerpts of Cunningham repertory by Bay Area dancers at ODC Theater November 8 & 9, 2019.  SFMOMA’s Open Space will commission an online series and convene discursive events in conjunction with the workshops and performances.

To foreground difference, we commissioned artists who represent a diversity of disciplines, perspectives, and ways of working. We intentionally did not select anyone who has ever worked directly with the Cunningham company. The ten Bay Area commissioned artists are:

Sofia Cordova
Maxe Crandall
Alex Escalante
Christy Funsch
Julie Moon
Jenny Odell
Nicole Peisl
Danishta Rivero
Dazaun Soleyn
Sophia Wang

Commissioned artists, from top left: Maxe Crandall, Julie Moon, Dazaun Soleyn, Sofia Cordova, Christy Funsch, Sophia Wang, Nicole Peisl, Alex Escalante, Danishta Rivero, Jenny Odell

Commissioned artists, from top left: Maxe Crandall, Julie Moon, Dazaun Soleyn, Sofia Cordova, Christy Funsch, Sophia Wang, Nicole Peisl, Alex Escalante, Danishta Rivero, Jenny Odell

Public Workshop and Audition for Dancers
August 10 & 11, 10-4 PM

A unique opportunity to study Cunningham technique and learn repertory with Rashuan Mitchell and Silas Riener, two acclaimed former members of the Cunningham company. Dancers will have the chance to audition to perform excerpts of Cunningham repertory at ODC Theater November 8 & 9, 2019. The audition portion of the workshop is optional, but dancers wanting to audition must take the workshop. Rehearsals and performances for the four selected dancers will be paid.  Workshop space is limited. To register for the workshop:


Representatives of the Merce Cunningham Trust and
Lead Teaching Artists for Bay Area Artists In Conversation with Merce at 100

Since 2010 Rashaun Mitchell + Silas Riener have created dance in response to complex and active spatial environments, often merging elements of fantasy, absurdity, and quiet contemplation into challenging multifaceted performance. After working together in the Merce Cunningham Dance Company, Mitchell and Riener developed a keen interest in the way abstraction and representation coincide in the body. Their collaborative work takes many forms, from site-specific installations, improvisational dances, and traditional proscenium pieces to highly crafted and intimate, immersive experiences. Historical influences and aesthetic forms collapse into a visually charged hybrid physical language. Together they have been part of Lower Manhattan Cultural Council’s Extended Life Dance Development program, the New York City Center Choreographic Fellowship, and have been artists in residence at EMPAC, Mount Tremper Arts, Wellesley College, Jacob’s Pillow, and Pieter. Their work has been presented at MOMA PS1 as part of Greater NY, The Chocolate Factory, New York Live Arts, Danspace Project, REDCAT, ICA Boston and Summer Stages Dance, the Walker Art Center, the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, On the Boards, and the Brooklyn Academy of Music among many others.


Hope Mohr, Director of The Bridge Project

The intention behind Signals from the West is not to further canonize Merce Cunningham, but rather to create a space for contemporary cultural exchange. Teaching Cunningham’s repertory will be a point of departure for new artistic activity, not an endpoint in itself.   The project will: 

  • Inspire new works of contemporary art

  • Facilitate collaboration across disciplines

  • Create a space for choreographic transmission that allows for individual and cultural expression

The project asks questions about authorship and culture such as:

  • What different forms can artistic lineage take?

  • Who and how does lineage exclude?

  • How does artmaking rooted in one particular body differ from artmaking rooted in hybrid and collaborative authorship?

  • What is the relationship between abstraction and cultural identity?

    “By offering up the basic component of the physical self to influence by another, the very foundations of one’s cultural understanding are thrown into relief…. because the physical body and its techniques are never abstract, but rather ineluctably located within a historical moment and a cultural/political system, any confrontation between two or more physical techniques has unavoidable historical and political resonances.”

-- Katherine Profeta, Dramaturgy in Motion: At Work on Dance and Movement Performance, University of Wisconsin Press (2015)

Claudia LaRocco, Editor in Chief of SFMOMA’s Open Space

Advocacy for the continued vitality of the Bay Area’s diverse mix of artistic expression is central to the mission of Open Space. We’re interested in what it means to speak of and from this place, in this time — and we believe that this conversation happens not in a vacuum but in relation to other places, and other times. We’re therefore delighted to be collaborating with the Merce Cunningham Trust, HMD’s Bridge Project, and ODC Theater to present Bay Area Artists Respond to Merce at 100, an interdisciplinary, intergenerational project that seeks to foster contemporary voices, create context for those voices, and reflect on how they relate to both the current moment and historical legacies.

Julie Potter, Director ODC Theater

As ODC Theater is committed to contemporary artists, the creation of new performance and transmissions of dance, we look forward to participating in Bay Area Artists Respond to Merce at 100, a dialogic project, in which select dances from the repertoire of Cunningham are transmitted, transformed and generative of a live research process and development of new work.

“The repertoire enacts embodied memory: performances, gestures, orality, movement, dance, singing - in short, all those acts usually thought of as ephemeral, nonreproducible knowledge. Repertoire, etymologically “a treasury, an inventory,” also allows for individual agency, referring also to “the finder, discoverer,” and meaning “to find out.” The repertoire requires presence: people participate in the production and reproduction of knowledge by “being there,” being a part of the transmission.” - Diana Taylor, The Archive and the Repertoire, Duke University Press (2003), page 20.

Encountering Cunningham dances as passed by Rashaun Mitchell and Silas Riener, ten Bay Area artists across disciplines will employ their own artistic voices and collaborations, developing new works to be presented with reperformed pieces in situ. In this way, the residency serves as a place of deliberation between Cunningham and living artists who are immersed in the conditions and particularities of this moment.


The Bridge Project approaches curating as a form of community organizing to facilitate equity-driven cultural conversations that cross discipline, geography, and perspective.  The purposes of the Bridge Project are to:

  • Create an intellectual commons for artists and

  • Facilitate alliances among artists and activists in the struggle toward equity.


Housed within SFMOMA’s Department of Community Engagement, Open Space is a W.A.G.E. Certified, interdisciplinary arts and culture platform. We are committed to diversity and collaboration, and dedicated to unruly, non-instrumentalized gestures. Anchored in the Bay Area, Open Space commissions and supports critical + experimental + poetic ruminations by artists, writers, and thinkers from all over the world, as well as hosting parties, performances, and other live events.


ODC Theater exists to empower and develop innovative artists. It participates in the creation of new works through commissioning, presenting, mentorship and space access; it develops informed, engaged and committed audiences; and advocates for the performing arts as an essential component to the economic and cultural development of our community. This 170-seat venue is the site of over 150 performances a year involving nearly 1,000 local, regional, national and international artists.


The mission of the Merce Cunningham Trust is to carry Cunningham’s legacy into the future. The Trust preserves the recorded and physical works of Merce Cunningham and the Merce Cunningham Dance Company and offers classes and workshops in Cunningham's technique, repertory, and choreographic methods to dancers and the public, keeping interest and practice alive.


HMD’s 2019 Bridge Project is a Merce Cunningham Centennial Community Program. 

Bay Area Artists in Conversation with Merce at 100 is a program of HMD’s Bridge Project and is made possible by the Merce Cunningham Trust, ODC Theater, SFMOMA’s Open Space, Kenneth Rainin Foundation, San Francisco’s Grants for the Arts, and individual donors.