11 of Our Favorite Merce Cunningham Photos from Our Archives

March 16, 2020

Today—April 16, 2019—marks what would have been Merce Cunningham’s 100th birthday. As dancers from Los Angeles to New York City to London gear up for Night of 100 Solos (the marathon performance event being livestreamed today), and as companies and presenters worldwide continue to celebrate the Cunningham Centennial through their programming, we searched through the Dance Magazine Archives to unearth our favorite images of the groundbreaking dancemaker.

A young Merce Cunningham, dressed in hole-filled rehearsal-wear, jumps, one knee raised to his chest, head flung back.


Bella Lewitzky and Merce Cunningham, wearing casual summer clothing, seated on benches surrounded by trees with others, all watching something out of frame.
Bella Lewitzky and Cunningham attend a group discussion at Idyllwild Dance Conference.
Leo Salkin, Courtesy DM Archives
Portrait of a middle-aged Merce Cunningham. His left hand is covering his mouth as he considers something out of frame.
Merce Cunningham, circa 1960
James Klosty, Courtesy DM Archives
A grinning Merce Cunningham, holding a coat and travel bag, stands with his company by the boarding steps to a Boeing 707. The women wear dresses, the men ties.
June 3, 1964: The Merce Cunningham company boards a Paris-bound plane to kick off a six-month international tour.
Air France Photo, Courtesy DM Archives
Merce Cunningham, in a black tracksuit, sits with his knees pulled up onstage. Behind him, the silver balloons designed by Andy Warhol for Cunningham's RainForest.
Cunningham onstage with Andy Warhol’s balloons for
Herbert Migdoll, Courtesy DM Archives
Two male dancers list a woman, legs split, over a third, who is crouching. Merce Cunningham gestures with an arm behind him in the corner. All wear pale unitards and legwarmers.
Karole Armitage, Louise Burns, Chris Komar, Rob Remley and Cunningham in
Johan Elbers, Courtesy DM Archives
Dancers in leotards and tights sit on wooden benches that surround a rough stage, where Cunninghamu2014barefoot and in tights with a jacket on top, holds a rope with one hand and holds his other at eye level.
Cunningham leads a discussion at Idyllwild Dance Conference.
Leo Salkin, Courtesy DM Archives
Catherine Kerr gazes down as she balances in a forced arch lunge; Merce Cunningham, just behind her, mirrors her lunge while looking over his back shoulder. Out of focus in the background are seated dancers, chatting and watching. All wear rehearsal clothes.
Catherine Kerr and Cunningham in rehearsal for
Johan Elbers, Courtesy DM Archives
Five small, square television sets of various sizes show a blurry image of Merce Cunningham's face. Cunningham himself is in the middle of the seemingly random array, holding a side lunge with his right arm raised and right foot in forced arch.
Cunningham’s collaborations with artists in other disciplines led him, beginning in the 1970s, to experiment with filmmaking, exploring how to make dances specifically for the camera.
Terry Stevenson, Courtesy DM Archives
A portrait of Merce Cunningham later in his life.
Cunningham, mid-1990s
Annie Liebowitz, Courtesy DM Archives