TBT: Merce Cunningham as a Contemporary Changeling

July 7, 2022

Merce Cunningham’s Changeling was the third in a trilogy of solos created and performed by the iconoclastic choreographer, in which he was “concerned with the possibility of containment and explosion being instantaneous.” Following Untitled Solo (1953) and Lavish Escapade (1956), the final installment of the series premiered at Brooklyn Academy of Music in 1957; frequent collaborator Robert Rauschenberg designed the costume and lighting.

Following the structure of the music by Christian Wolff and created using chance procedures, all three solos were notably tricky to perform due to the complexity of the layered movements; Changeling in particular features contorted body positions. Reviewing the work’s premiere for Dance Magazine, Doris Hering wrote, “the dance was honeycombed with sadness—a sadness all the more poignant for its understatement.”