Carolyn Brown

A founding member and principal dancer with the Merce Cunningham Dance Company for 20 years, Carolyn Brown has performed throughout the United States and in Canada, Mexico, South America, thirteen European countries, India, Thailand, Japan, and Iran. She has appeared in 42 works choreographed by Cunningham, creating the original roles in all but four. In 1958 and 1960, John Cage, David Tudor, Cunningham, and Brown toured Europe presenting programs of contemporary dance and music. In addition to performing with the Merce Cunningham Dance Company, Brown created her part in the first performance of Cage’s Theatre Piece; danced on pointe in Robert Rauschenberg’s first dance work Pelican; and was the featured dancer in Toi, an opera for television by Murray Schafer for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation.

Since leaving the Merce Cunningham Dance Company, Brown has worked as a free-lance choreographer, filmmaker, writer, lecturer, and teacher in the United States and abroad. While serving as Dean of dance at the School of the Arts, SUNY at Purchase, and she formed the Dance Corps at Purchase, which performs ballet and contemporary dance works. She was Regent’s Lecturer, department of dramatic art at University of California at Berkeley, and senior fellow and first holder of the Sage Cowles Land Grant Chair in Dance at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis.

Most recently, she returned to the Merce Cunningham Dance Company as artistic advisor to help restage and coach early-Cunningham works for this and other companies, including the New York City Ballet, the Zurich Ballet, Mikhail Baryshnikov’s White Oak Dance Project, and the Ballet de Lorraine in France. Brown also produced and directed Dune Dance, a 40-minute, 16-mm color film featuring Sara Rudner, and has used film as an integral part of in four of her dances.

Brown’s awards, grants, and fellowships include the Dance Magazine Award with Frederick Ashton and Ted Shawn (her mother’s teacher); Honorary Doctor of Fine Arts from Wheaton College, MA; Creative Artists Public Service Grant; five NEA grants, and a John Simon Guggenhiem Fellowship.

Her writing is published in Dance Perspectives, Ballet Review, the Dance Research Journal, the New York Times, and in the Saturday Review/E.P. Dutton book Merce Cunningham, edited and with photographs by James Klosty (republished by Limelight Editions). Currently, Brown is writing a book about her years with the Merce Cunningham Dance Company to be published by Alfred A. Knof, Inc.

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