• Nearly Ninety Architecture Programming
    Benedetta Tagliabue
    Cunningham Dance Foundation, Inc.

Merce Cunningham Dance Company, Nearly Ninety, 2009, Brooklyn Academy of Music. Photo: Beth Weinstein.

The Merce Cunningham Dance Company debuted Cunningham's final work Nearly Ninety at Brooklyn Academy of Music in April 2009. With a set designed by architect Benedetta Tagliabue, the work is a testament to Cunningham's continual innovation. Tagliabue's abstract, multi-level decor is strikingly original and represents an important contribution to the lexicon of contemporary stage design. By dissolving the boundaries between the visual and performing arts, the work makes a profound statement about the potential of architecture to inspire, engage and provoke. Cunningham Dance Foundation offers a host of educational initiatives and public programs related to set of Nearly Ninety, elucidating the work's design principles, construction, and creative methodology, and situating the work within the practice of contemporary architecture and performance.

Benedetta Tagliabue was born in Milan and graduated from the University of Venice in 1989. In 1991, she joined Enric Miralles's studio, where she eventually became a partner. Her work with Miralles, whom she married, includes a number of high profile buildings and projects in Barcelona: Parque Diagonal Mar (1997–2002), Head Office Gas Natural (1999–2006) and the market and quarter Santa Caterina (1996–2005), as well as projects across Europe, including the School of Music in Hamburg (1997–2000) and the City Hall in Utrecht (1996–2000). Recently, she received an honorary doctor of arts degree from Napier University (2004), the RIBA Stirling Prize (2005), the Centenary Medal from Edinburgh Architectural Association, and the Spanish National Architecture Prize Manuel de la Dehesa, for the Scottish Parliament building (both 2005).

Merce Cunningham (1919–2009) was a leader of the American avant-garde throughout his seventy-year career and is considered one of the most important choreographers of our time. Through much of his life, he was also one of the greatest American dancers. With an artistic career distinguished by constant innovation, Cunningham expanded the frontiers not only of dance, but also of contemporary visual and performing arts. His collaborations with artistic innovators from every creative discipline have yielded an unparalleled body of American dance, music, and visual art. Over the course of his career, he choreographed more than 150 works and more than 800 site-specific events, many of them in collaboration with his life partner, John Cage. Cunningham passed away in his New York home on July 26, 2009.

Founded in 1964, the Cunningham Dance Foundation (CDF) exists to support, sustain, and further the wide-ranging creative activities of Merce Cunningham: choreographer, teacher, and artist. This consists primarily of touring the Merce Cunningham Dance Company (founded 1953), currently a group of seven men and seven women who perform the works of Merce Cunningham. Other major areas of focus include instruction in Cunningham technique (the Merce Cunningham Studio), dance education in elementary and secondary schools (educational outreach), support for young choreographers (Studio Performance Program for Young Artists), and preservation of Cunningham's history and legacy (Merce Cunningham Archives).  New initiatives, such as the concert series Experiments in the Studio and the webcast series Mondays with Merce, seek to engage audiences by providing access to Cunningham's ongoing collaborations and creative activities.