American dancer, teacher, and choreographer and a celebrated soloist in the Martha Graham Dance Company from 1940 to 1955, Merce Cunningham participated in the third-generation development of modern dance. Born in Centralia, Washington, he began his career in the second-generation period of the American modern-dance theater under the tutelage of Martha Graham. He later became a creator and choreographer of his own dances and in 1950 established his own dance company. Through the Merce Cunningham Dance Company, Cunningham taught his students to follow new paths of creativity-to choreograph dances to avant-garde musical compositions, to be free of spatial restraints, to replace a strong central focus with a random approach to choreographic patterns, and to devise dances that could be viewed from any angle. Working with American composer John Cage as musical director, Cunningham taught his students to experiment with dances that used electronic and other newly developed forms of music. His best-known works include Suite by Chance (1952), a work in which a toss of the dice determines the structure, and Symphonie Pour un Homme Seul (1952). Both reveal the spare, expressive style that is the Cunningham hallmark.
Jacqueline Lesschaeveis a French writer.