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Interview with Mikhail Baryshnikov: and, interview with Carolyn Brown, 1982-07-04

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Interview with Mikhail Baryshnikov: and, interview with Carolyn Brown, 1982-07-04
Merce Cunningham Dance Company (Associated name)
Baryshnikov, Mikhail, 1948- (Interviewee)
Brown, Carolyn, 1927- (Interviewee)
Vaughan, David, 1924- (Interviewer)

Merce Cunningham Dance Foundation Collection. Audio materials

Dates / Origin
Date Created: 1982-07-04
Date Created: 1982-04 (Questionable)
Library locations
Rodgers and Hammerstein Archives of Recorded Sound
Shelf locator: *LTC-A 1467
Baryshnikov, Mikhail, 1948-
Brown, Carolyn, 1927-
Cage, John
Cunningham, Merce
Farber, Viola
Paxton, Steve
Rauschenberg, Robert, 1925-2008
American Ballet Theatre
Merce Cunningham Dance Company
Crises (Choreographic work : Cunningham)
Duets (Choreographic work : Cunningham)
RainForest (Choreographic work : Cunningham)
Scramble (Choreographic work : Cunningham)
Second hand (Choreographic work : Cunningham)
Story (Choreographic work : Cunningham)
Suite by chance (Choreographic work : Cunningham)
Tread (Choreographic work : Cunningham)
Music and dance
Content: Title and date provided by cataloger based on audition and handwritten note on original cassette and container.
Content: Handwritten note on original container: "Carolyn Brown Interview". Handwritten note on original cassette: "B. Baryshnikov / Carolyn Brown ; A. CB continued".
Content: David Vaughan interviews Mikhail Baryshnikov, likely in New York, New York in 1982; and interviews Carolyn Brown in an unidentified location on July 4, 1982. These interviews were taken as research for David Vaughan's book, Merce Cunningham: Fifty years (New York, Aperture).
Venue: Interview with Mikhail Baryshnikov likely recorded in, New York, New York, [1982 July?].
Venue: Interview with Carolyn Brown recorded in an unidentified outdoor location on [July 4, 1982].
Acquisition: Gift; Merce Cunningham Dance Foundation, 2011-2012.
Citation/reference: Forms part of the Merce Cunningham Dance Foundation Collection.
Physical Description
Extent: 1 audiocassette (79 minutes) : analog
Sound quality is mostly good; there are occasional background sounds.
Streaming file 1, side 1: Begins abruptly; Carolyn Brown continues to speak with David Vaughan about the ways that Merce Cunningham's Story (1963) and Field dances (1963) were departures from his previous works, and she briefly mentions the choreography of Galaxy (1956) as a precursor to these works; she speaks about Cunningham's acute sense of timing and how Story's indeterminate structure disrupted this; [brief recording interruption]; she tells an anecdote about Steve Paxton in a rehearsal of Story in Cologne; she speaks about the artistic similarities and differences between Cage and Cunningham, especially in Cage's approach to chance and indeterminacy; she speaks about Cunningham's great talent and ability for crafting structure in his choreography; the ways Cunningham pushed her as a dancer and artist while teaching her a solo in Crises (1960), including how this related to the creation of Septet (1953); she speaks about Viola Farber's part in Crises; they speak briefly about other examples in which Cunningham created special roles for Brown and Farber; she tells a brief anecdote about Cunningham's response to her about quality while rehearsing Scramble (1967); she speaks about the dramatic environment and quality that emerged from performances of RainForest (1968) over the years; she compares some of the qualities that performers brought to RainForest, especially between Gus Solomons jr and Jeff Slayton; more on how she learned about taking risks by watching Slayton dance; she speaks about some of the challenges Meg Harper faced in learning Barbara Lloyd's part in RainForest; she speaks about the brevity of time that Cunningham spent in creating her solo in Tread (1970) and her choice to not "perfect" the solo; she speaks about her love of the solo in Scramble including the images Cunningham gave her while making it; she speaks about her solos in Suite for five and Variations V (1965), and the rehearsal process for these; rehearsing her solos Waka and Hands birds (1960) in Venice and her enjoyment of spending the month there with Cunningham; challenges in creating and rehearsing Second hand (1970); she speaks about learning the gestural movements in Second hand; she speaks about the differences in the "now" company versus the "then" company, especially in terms of the current age differences and social distance between Cunningham and his dancers.Streaming file 2, side 2: Begins abruptly; Mikhail Baryshnikov speaks with David Vaughan about Merce Cunningham setting Duets (1980) on [American Ballet Theatre in May, 1982], including the importance of casting decisions; Baryshnikov speaks about the ways he found learning Duets challenging; he briefly describes some of the differences in dancing Twyla Tharp's work versus dancing in Cunningham's work; he speaks about Cunningham's focus on timing, rhythm, and technique in rehearsals; they speak about the similarities and differences between Cunningham technique and ballet technique; Baryshnikov speaks about his initial response to seeing Cunningham's choreography and shifts in his perception of it over the years; he demonstrates some of Cunningham's rhythmic patterns and speaks about some of the physical and timing challenges in dancing Cunningham's choreography; Baryshnikov speaks about the success of [American Ballet Theatre's] performances of Duets; Vaughan speaks briefly about the period in which Cunningham's work was "not taken seriously"; they speak about a choreographer and ballet company in Avignon, [France] identified as "Marley Theatre"; Baryshnikov speaks about ways that he engages the new choreography he sees; he speaks briefly about the movement phrases in Duets and compares them with John Cage's music for Duets, [Improvisation III]; Vaughan speaks about Cunningham's use of music in his dance classes; they speak about upcoming [American Ballet Theatre] performances in Paris and Baryshnikov's planned repertory for them; Baryshnikov speaks about his interest in Cunningham setting an original work on [American Ballet Theatre]; ca. 28:50, Carolyn Brown speaks with David Vaughan briefly about studying with Merce Cunningham in the fall of 1952; socializing with other composers, artists and dancers after moving to New York with her husband Earle Brown; she speaks about how John Cage, Earle, and "Morty" [Morton] Feldman were interested in chance procedures and indeterminacy in music composition; Brown speaks briefly about her earliest memories of "Bob" [Robert] Rauschenberg's involvement with the [Merce Cunningham Dance Company]; her first performance with Cunningham at the University of Illinois in his Suite by chance (1953) and understudying for Sixteen dances for soloist and a company of three (1951); she speaks about taking a composition for dancers workshop with Cage that exposed her to some of the choreographic ideas that Cunningham used in his works; she speaks briefly about a piece that Remy Charlip created for Cage's workshop; Brown speaks about some of the artistic tensions between Cage and Cunningham, especially while he was a Company administrator until the end of the 1964 world tour; she speaks about going to Black Mountain College in the summer of 1953 and lists the dancers and works they performed there, including prior rehearsals of some of the works while in New York; she speaks about the rehearsal schedule for the Company at that time; she briefly describes the first tour of the West coast and the closeness the Company began to develop with Cunningham while at Black Mountain; she speaks about Cunningham's early choreographic process, especially his development of material in class; ends abruptly.
Type of Resource
Sound recording
RLIN/OCLC: 914486407
NYPL catalog ID (B-number): b20750279
Universal Unique Identifier (UUID): fed578b0-b909-0133-9263-60f81dd2b63c
Rights Statement
This item is protected by copyright and/or related rights. You are free to use this Item in any way that is permitted by the copyright and related rights legislation that applies to your use. For other uses you need to obtain permission from the rights-holder(s).

Item timeline of events

  • 1982: Created
  • 2020: Found by you!
  • 2021

MLA Format

Rodgers and Hammerstein Archives of Recorded Sound, The New York Public Library. "Interview with Mikhail Baryshnikov" The New York Public Library Digital Collections. 1982.

Chicago/Turabian Format

Rodgers and Hammerstein Archives of Recorded Sound, The New York Public Library. "Interview with Mikhail Baryshnikov" New York Public Library Digital Collections. Accessed October 1, 2020.

APA Format

Rodgers and Hammerstein Archives of Recorded Sound, The New York Public Library. (1982). Interview with Mikhail Baryshnikov Retrieved from

Wikipedia Citation

<ref name=NYPL>{{cite web | url= | title= (sound recording) Interview with Mikhail Baryshnikov, (1982)|author=Digital Collections, The New York Public Library |accessdate=October 1, 2020 |publisher=The New York Public Library, Astor, Lenox, and Tilden Foundations}}</ref>

Interview with Mikhail Baryshnikov