Chance Operation


The 16th would have been the 100th birthday of one of our heroes, the visionary choreographer Merce Cunningham. A career that spanned over 60 years, his work remapped the relational aspects between set, movement and music. Traditionally, dance used a common structure to the musical composition. However, with Merce’s dance company he abandoned this structure and made the music and dance entirely independent in performance. His dancers would learn his intricate series of steps in silence, and only at the performance would the music come together with their movement.


"I think the separation of elements, of having dance, music and design created independently, when they do come together they can produce something which no one could predict.They can make something happen that hasn't happened before."


I think there is something very special about the friendship and creative collaboration between Merce Cunningham and John Cage. Through the conceptual musical compositions of John Cage, Merce’s work arrived at a philosophy that informed his practice for the rest of his life. This is the kind of creative alliance that I could envision with a perfumer creating an olfactive score to a movement piece of a choreographer. In our process we would invite a perfumer to trace the steps of movement, articulating the flow, concept, environmental aspects and emotions in a dance piece. However, this particular process refers back to this traditional dialogue, where scent works in concert with the movement. But now reflecting on Cunningham’s philosophy of dance and the way in which he collaborated with John Cage, I am intrigued about the possibilities of the scent and dance being created completely independent and only coming together at the time of performance. Perhaps it is in the gaps or spaces between the mismatch were the true magic is. Structure, patterns and conceptual pairings fall a part leaving the viewer to piece together, process and experience in their own way.


“Dance is the art of the present tense… I don’t think this is an intellectual matter. Like many things, it falls to pieces, ceases to exist, when subjected to intellectual scrutiny.”