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Merce Cunningham, born in Centralia, Washington, received his first formal dance and theater training at the Cornish School (now Cornish College) in Seattle. From 1939 to 1945, he was a soloist in the company of Martha Graham. During that time, he began to choreograph independently, presenting his first New York solo concert with John Cage in April 1944. He continued to present annual concerts, by himself or with an ad hoc group of dancers, until the formation of Merce Cunningham Dance Company in 1953. Since that time Cunningham has choreographed over one hundred and fifty works for his company.
His works been included in the repertories of numerous ballet and modern dance companies around the world, among them American Ballet Theatre, the New York City Ballet, the Paris Opéra, Boston Ballet; Charleroi/Danses, Cullberg Ballet, Ohio Ballet, Pacific Northwest Ballet, Pennsylvania Ballet, Rambert Dance Company, Repertory Dance Theatre, and Théâtre du Silence.
Cunningham has collaborated on two books about his work: Changes: Notes on Choreography, and The Dancer and the Dance.