Pond Way (1998) puts twelve of Merce Cunningham's dancers in flowy, cutaway cream-colored harem pants and cropped tops before a gigantic Roy Lichtenstein image of a small boat in a vast body of water, making its way across a lake of Benday dots. With an atmospheric score by Brian Eno (New Ikebukuro), the dancers are shimmering, sparking highlights on the surface of the water. Though the music and drop suggest Japan, the dancers' yoga-like poses on one leg point father east, to India and Bali.
John King's longtermparking, a mechanical bombination that roves around the Eisenhower auditorium, provides the score for Fluid Canvas (2002). The dancing provides a some conventional partnering and a short duet, as well as a well-executed complicated-looking solo for Derry Swan.
The cast of 14 wear metallic silver or purple unitards swashed with iridescence. They could be radio waves trapped in an antenna, or the scales of a butterfly's wing. The back scrim is illuminated with discs of light, scratchy tendrils of light—a wireframe model of a bird in flight?
The evening closes with How to Pass, Kick, Fall, and Run (1965, restaged 2002), a post-program press replacement. The eight dancers are ultimately upstaged by the performers of the "score," a suite of Zen stories written by John Cage and read by David Vaughan and Cunningham.
The dancers wear tights and warmup shirts, and employ an everyday-movement vocabulary. Most impressively, all of the curtains and scrims are taken out, exposing the Ike's back wall, stacks of risers in storage, the dancers' table of water bottles and towels, the lighting trees, someone's bicycle—it's a fabulous found-art set.
At times the readers' voices drop out, leaving the dancers to provide their own happenstance accompaniment, bare feet squeaking on the dance surface; we catch the spillover sounds of a rock band playing elsewhere in the Kennedy Center.
Cunningham, his hair a silvery nimbus, presides at the reader's table, and each of us feels that he has caught our eye. We will not see his like again.