This reader situates Signals from the West: Bay Area Artists in Conversation with Merce Cunningham at 100 in larger conversations about lineage and cultural identity. Although the readings provide context, they are not meant to be exhaustive, but rather a point of departure for further research and exchange. This is a work in progress. Please email suggested changes and additions to


"My work allows for an ambiguity in terms of meaning.  I think I prefer that. Dancing is never so uninteresting to me as when every inch is snared along the way.  And given the separateness of the dance and the music…, and where possible…the visual element, this allows for further ambiguity.  One of the things this openness does allow is for the spectator to creep in, or out, and make up his own mind." -Merce Cunningham

Merce Cunningham’s one-page biography
Chance Conversations:  An Interview with Merce Cunningham and John Cage
The Six Sides of Merce Cunningham
The Impermanent Art (1952) Written by Cunningham in 1952, the year before he formed his company.
Four Events That Have Led to Large Discoveries (1994) Written by Cunningham in 1994 when he was 75 years old
A Movement, a Sound, a Change of Light A one-page essay by John Cage from 1964
Merce Cunningham’s Working Process
I Have Nothing to Say and I’m Saying It A one hour documentary about John Cage.
Merce Cunningham:  A Lifetime of Dance (2000)
Cage/Cunningham (2015)
498, 3rd Ave. (documentary on the
Scramble dance capsule)
Mondays with Merce (short topical videos)
#15: John Cage
#5: Company Class
#6: Performing
#13: Roaratorio
#8: Remembering

David Vaughan, Merce Cunningham: 50 Years Available as a free online app:

The Dancer and the Dance (interview with Jacqueline Lesschaeve)

RASHAUN MITCHELL AND SILAS RIENER (Lead teaching artists for HMD’s Bay Area Merce project)

Sofía Córdova - BILONGO LILA: Nobody Dies in a Foretold War

Maxe Crandall - Play collaboration w/ Mónica de la Torre "Emergency Theater"

Alex Escalante - Venado

Christy Funsch - Mother, Sister, Daughter, Marvel (2018)

Julie Moon - Re-sound: OMMO

Jenny Odell - Original essay inspiring “How to Do Nothing Book”

Nicole Peisl - VIELFALT trailer

Danishta Rivero - work sample coming soon

Dazaun Soleyn - belle Deesse

Sophia Wang - Make Study (excerpt) fr. A Retrospective of Dance Duets / 356 S Mission Rd, LA / May 6 2018

Joan Acocella, Must the Show Go On?, The New Yorker, July 1, 2019

Limited Edition
The theme of Limited Edition, “Forward-Looking Lineages,” was inspired in part by the SFMOMA show Robert Rauschenberg: Erasing the Rules. An Open Space partnership with CounterPulse, The Lab, ODC Theater, Performance at SFMOMA, and Z Space, Limited Edition explored questions of legacy and lineage through performances, discussions, and gatherings at various locations throughout the city from January to March 2018, with commissioned texts (by Gerald Casel, Xandra Ibarra, James Fleming, Ryan Tacata, Meiyin Wang, et al).

Hope Mohr, Choreographic Transmission in an Expanded Field: Reflections on Ten Artists Respond to Trisha Brown's Locus, TDR/The Drama Review (2018)

Diana Taylor, Acts of Transfer (in The Archive and the Repertoire)

The Pew Center for Arts & Heritage, A Steady Pulse, Restaging Lucinda Childs

Lisa Kraus, Nuts and Bolts: How We Teach Trisha Brown, Thinking Dance


Marisa Perel, Merce Cunningham’s Sites of Curiosity: On the centennial of Cunningham’s birth, how does his legacy prompt us to talk about othered bodies? Frieze, March 15, 2019

Miguel Gutierrez, Does abstraction belong to white people?, BOMB Magazine, Nov. 7, 2018

Jared Sexton and Elizabeth Lee, Hold everything black, Open Space, SFMOMA, September 6, 2017

Hilton Als, The Soullessness of “Straight White Men”, The New Yorker, August 6 & 13, 2018.

Casel, Gerald. Responding to Trisha Brown's Locus, the body is the brain, November 1, 2016

Charlton, Lauretta. Claudia Rankine’s Home for the Racial Imaginary, The New Yorker, January 19, 2017.

hooks, bell. "Postmodern Blackness,” Postmodern Culture, vol. 1, no. 1 (Sep. 1990).

Kao, Peiling. "On Per[mute]ing," the body is the brain, October 27, 2016

Lalami, Laila. “Group Think: The Identity Politics of Whiteness,” New York Times Magazine, November 27, 2016.

Menand, Louis. "What Identity Demands,” The New Yorker, September 3, 2018.

Pedrosa, Adriano. "What is the Process," in Ten Fundamental Questions of Curating. Ed. by Jens Hoffman, Mousse Publishing, 2013. 

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

Racial Imaginary Institute

Rankine, Claudia “Teju Cole’s Essays Build Connections between African and Western Art.” New York Times Book Review, 9 August:12, 2016.

Rich, Adrienne. Essential Essays: Culture, Politics and the Art of Poetry.  W.W. Norton & Co. 2018.  

RIFF TALKing on Identity and Performance, with Jaamil Olawale Kosoko, Joy Mariama Smith, Sara Smith and Tara Aisha Willis; moderated by Cassie Peterson. Originally printed in Contact Quarterly, Vol. 42 No. 2, Summer/Fall 2017.

Sharpe, Christina. In the Wake: On Blackness and Being. Durham, NC: Duke University Press. 2016.

Sheets, Hilarie M. The Changing Complex Profile of Black Abstract Painters, ArtNews, June 4, 2014. 

Smith, Zadie. “A Bird of Few Words: Narrative Mysteries in the paintings of Lynette Yiadom-Boakye.” The New Yorker, June 19, 2017.