NEW YORK — Merce Cunningham, the avant-garde dancer and choreographer who revolutionized modern dance by creating works of pure movement divorced from storytelling and even from their musical accompaniment, has died at age 90, a spokeswoman said Monday.
Cunningham died on Sunday at his Manhattan home of natural causes, said Leah Sandals, spokeswoman for the Merce Cunningham Dance Company. Sandals would not specify the exact cause of death.
“Merce saw beauty in the ordinary, which is what made him extraordinary,” said Trevor Carlson, executive director of the Cunningham Dance Foundation. “He did not allow convention to lead him, but was a true artist, honest and forthcoming in everything he did.”
In a career that spanned more than 60 years and some 150 works, Cunningham wiped out storytelling in dance, tossed coins to determine steps, and shattered such unwritten rules as having dancers face the audience.
He worked closely with composer John Cage, his longtime partner who died in 1992, and with visual artists such as Robert Rauschenberg and Jasper Johns. But, he said, “I am and always have been fascinated by dancing, and I can just as well do a dance without the visual thing.”