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Merce Cunningham’s “Beach Birds” will be performed on New York’s Rockaway Beach in a new edition of the Beach Sessions Dance Series.

This year’s edition of the Beach Sessions Dance Series at New York’s Rockaway Beach will feature the choreography Beach Birds, which Merce Cunningham created in 1991 to the score of the same title composed by his partner, composer John Cage.

An adaptation of this choreography will be staged this Saturday by Patricia Lent and Rashaun Mitchell -both former members of Cunningham’s company and trustees of the Merce Cunnigham Trust, the foundation that manages the choreographer’s artistic legacy-, in an enclave where sand, sea and real birds will create the best possible setting for the eleven dancers charged with setting the work.

The idea of presenting Beach Birds in Rockaway came from Morgan Griffin, producer of Beach Sessions and former student of Rashaun Mitchell at New York University, who explained a few days ago to The New York Times that “there is an idea that Merce’s work will fade away as the people who knew his work get older. But I think it’s beautiful that a young person who didn’t know Merce and didn’t see the company wanted this work to be reconstructed”.

This year’s Beach Sessions has an added attraction: the performance of the original Beach Birds choreography (on the sand of the 108th Street beach, starting at 5:45pm New York time) will be followed by a version of the dance by choreographer Sarah Michelson – the premiere of which will then begin on the 102nd Street Beach Boardwalk – showcasing her personal relationship to Beach Birds (created during her time as a student at the Merce Cunningham Studio).In Cunningham’s choreography, the music existed independently in his works, allowing a dance to be a dance rather than a choreography tied to a score. So, unfortunately, the original piece John Cage composed for the choreography, FOUR3,  will not play during its performance.

Beach Sessions was created in 2015 by artistic and performance producer Sasha Okshteyn, a resident near New York’s Rockaway Beach, with the aim of supporting the presentation of dance works in public spaces and bringing the outdoor dance festival model to New York’s unusual public beach space. Since its inaugural season, Beach Sessions has presented performances by over 60 established and emerging artists to an audience of over 5,000 and has built a reputation for bringing non-traditional, multi-sensory live performance programming to New York audiences.

© Photo by Erik Tanner. Merce Cunningham, Beach Birds (1991), Arranged for Beach Sessions 23. Dancers: Ryan Pliss, Sienna Blaw, Chaery Moon.