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Merce Cunningham

Beach BirdsArms.jpg

Beach Birds For Camera


Choreography: Merce Cunningham
Music: John Cage
Direction: Elliot Caplan

A unique adaptation of a dance work originally made for the stage. This film combines different shooting locations, black and white and color film, and Dolby stereo sound to present dance through the visual medium of film. When it was first suggested to John Cage that he should create a work in collaboration with Merce Cunningham for the 1991 James Joyce/John Cage Festival in Zurich, Cage had the idea to write a large scale piece to be called "Ocean," the projected title for Joyce's next novel - never to be written - following "Finnegan's Wake." No suitable space was available for such a project, so it was decided that instead a new dance would be made for the Merce Cunningham Dance Company's repertory. Cunningham had always intended to call his part of the work "Beach Birds," and so the title remains. Filmed at Kaufman Astoria Studios and Industria Superstudio in New York, NY, December, 1991.

Also featured in:

Beach Birds For Camera, 1992, 35mm, b&w/color/sound with Merce Cunningham Dance Company, 28:00. Choreography, Merce Cunningham; Music, John Cage.

Beach Birds, 1995, video installation v. 1, 35mm, 16mm, color/b&w/sound, multi-monitor installation with Merce Cunningham Dance Company, 26:00

Beach Birds, 1999, video installation v. 2, 35mm, 16mm, color/b&w/sound, 2-channel multi-monitor installation with Merce Cunningham Dance Company, 26:00. Choreography, Merce Cunningham/Music, John Cage.

and featured in Merce Cunningham Collection: Volume 1, Three Films by Merce Cunningham & Elliot Caplan

Total Film Home Entertainment, The Netherlands, DVD, 2005

"Merce would often call me on the 2nd floor to come see him on the 11th floor in the Westbeth building. He would usually say something like, 'I've been thinking we should make a new film.' I would agree. On one particular day during one of those conversations, he told me of a dance he had already made for stage and thought it should be the new film. I had seen that work in New York and replied that I thought the costumes and design were too dense for film. I'm not sure why, but I added, 'I think we should do something in black & white.' He thought I meant black & white costumes and replied, 'I just made this new dance called Beach Birds, it's part of "Ocean" and it has black and white costumes in it by Marsha.' (Marsha Skinner) He continued, 'We are performing it in Zurich in June and you should come see it.' I sat next to John Cage during the first performance and when the curtain rose, I knew this would be our new film."


- Elliot Caplan













Changing Steps

Filmed on location at the Sundance Institute.

Released with an introduction from Robert Redford.

Choreography: Merce Cunningham

Music: John Cage

Direction and Design for Film: Elliot Caplan


Post Production Photos:

Points In Space


A critically acclaimed collaboration for the screen by choreographer Merce Cunningham,

composer John Cage and filmmaker Elliot Caplan


Deli Commedia


"Deli Commedia" is masterfully constructed, but it is so delightful to watch that nobody will notice if he doesn't want to."  Women's Wear Daily

"Brilliantly structured, nonstop movement, nonstop fun, the results are exhilarating." DanceMagazine

"The result is a fascinating exploration of movement and perceptions." The New York Times

Design for Film by Elliot Caplan.



Choreography: Merce Cunningham

Music: Trimpin

Set, Lighting, Film Decor: Elliot Caplan

Film scans from source material:


Rare Recording of 1996 Performance:

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