Scope and arrangement
The Merce Cunningham Dance Foundation, Inc. records, Additions hold administrative files, company management and technical files, development files, and repertory files, as well as press materials, programs, and photographs. Administrative files consist of Board of Directors material as well as financial ledgers, contracts, film and music documents, and the papers of CDF's archivist, David Vaughan. Company Management files document the technical logistics of touring a dance company. Development files hold grant applications, correspondence with individual donors, and materials related to galas and art sales which supported the company. Repertory files document the creation of individual dances. Press materials consist of clippings, flyers, newsletters, and press releases. Photographs include professional shots of dancers and individual dances, as well as slides and negatives documenting the company and CDF events.
The Merce Cunningham Dance Foundation, Inc. records, Additions are arranged in seven series:
The Cunningham Dance Foundation administrative files consist of Board of Directors material as well as contracts; financial ledgers; artist, film, and sound documents; and the papers of Merce Cunningham and CDF's archivist, David Vaughan. Board of Directors correspondence, arranged alphabetically, includes updates on ongoing projects, items of interest for individuals on specific committees (such as the Financial Committee), reminders to raise a yearly contribution, and resignation and acceptance letters. Board of Directors minutes, arranged by year, hold a record of each meeting, memos, and copies of financial and executive committee reports, as well as information about fundraising efforts. Board meetings covered the financial well being of CDF, election of new members, and strategies for growth.
David Vaughan's files hold correspondence with current and past co-workers, lecture and study notes, writings, and notes compiled using information found in the archive. The notes include a dance-by-dance compilation of information relating to individual compositions by Cunningham. They consist of statements by Cunningham regarding the development or intention of the dance, remembrances of the dances by Vaughan and others, photocopies of articles and related published material, and quotes by Cunningham on the nature of dance in general. Vaughan's notes were ultimately used to compile his 1984 article, "The Choreography of Merce Cunningham: Chronology and Commentary" which is also held in these files.
A limited selection of artist files hold correspondence and designs from visual artists and costume designers who worked with Cunningham. Such designs often preceded a dance – for example, Suzanne Gallo's file holds a fully formed design idea, including costumes, lighting, and sets with no particular dance attached. These files may also contain gallery loan information and summaries of the artist's work. Film files hold correspondence with collaborators on visual projects, video preservation documentation, transcripts and their translations, and video inventories. Sound files consist of correspondence with musical artists and composers, contracts, and scores produced for or used by Cunningham. There is also a small selection of late 19th/early 20th century published sheet music, some of which was used for Dime a Dance (1953). Since Cunningham did not choreograph specifically for music or vice versa, these materials were kept separately. There are also personnel files, financial ledgers, sample dance company contracts, and surveys.
This series also contains a small selection of Merce Cunningham's personal files. These consist of incoming correspondence and "notes to Merce" from staff, presidential invitations and honorary degrees, and the Life Forms manuals for his dance creation software. There are also notes used by Cunningham to conduct classes, workshops, and rehearsal warm-ups.
Electronic records in this series include files created while Elliot Caplan was the filmmaker in residence. These files include correspondence regarding screenings, personal appearances and lectures; reviews of his films; interview requests for Cage/Cunningham; and responses to requests for copies of his films or press kits. Michael Stier's electronic files hold correspondence regarding video licensing and distribution requests and inventories created during his time as CDF's film and video distribution coordinator. David Vaughan's records include drafts of Vaughan's histories of the company by year (1935-1996), video clips compiled for the CDF website, photographs of Cunningham and others, and some individual dance descriptions and biographical information on Merce Cunningham and other artists. There are also copies of the Board of Directors meeting minutes (1992-1999) which are accompanied by company budgets and some staff resumes.
Arranged alphabetically by file type. Electronic records are currently unavailable.
The company management files were created by the administrative staff and various road staff, including stage managers and technical directors. These materials document the logistics of moving a company to its various performances and locations each year. There is correspondence between event organizers, local staff, managers, and CDF staff. Correspondence details lighting, sound, and electrical needs; hotel bookings; rehearsal space rental arrangements; numbers of traveling crew and performers; and local fire codes. There are also loading lists, local contracts, tour itineraries, production schedules, and program mockups. For venues where the company performed regularly (such as City Center), there are close-out notes with suggestions for changes to be made in the next year with light rentals and scenery positioning, as well as reminders of quick fixes that worked. These files track the details of setting an individual dance or series of dances into a specific venue.
Technical files include light plots, instrument schedules, structural drawings, light cues, line set schedules, channel hook-ups, and magic sheets. Magic sheets provided a quick visual reference to each channel and the fixture(s) it controlled. Most of the technical drawings contain production and venue information. Some technical files contain memos advising the house crew working at each venue as to the specific electrical needs of the company.
Electronic records in this series are both company management and technical files, and include tour itineraries, correspondence from production managers to various venues, load-in lists, light cue sheets, and outlines of specific venue configurations.
This series is arranged chronologically. Electronic records are currently unavailable.
The Development files hold grant materials, individual donor files, and material relating to fundraisers and galas hosted by CDF. The grant files consist of grant applications, contracts, vouchers, reports, correspondence with grant-giving organizations and meeting minutes. The bulk of the files are grant applications with the National Endowment for the Arts and New York City's Department for the Development of Cultural Affairs.
Individual donor files hold correspondence thanking non-corporate donors for one time or continuing gifts. These files primarily date from 2009 to 2011, during the height of the campaign to fund the Legacy Plan.
Gala and fundraising files consist of correspondence, invitations, guest books, and planning notes related to CDF's other fundraising opportunities. These include gala performances, art shows and sales, and post-performance "meet and greet" receptions. These files also contain correspondence with artists who donated works to be sold or shown by CDF.
Arranged alphabetically by file type.
Repertory production files document the creation and packaging of individual dances. Created by Cunningham and collaborating artists and technicians, these files hold original light cues, photographs, costume designs, credit sheets, prop lists, cue sheets, universal stage diagrams, and correspondence with scenic designers. These files document the assembly of a dance up until the minute it is ready to go on the road. Event files often have little to no division between individual Events. For files relating to the mounting of dances at specific venues, users should consult Series II, Company management and technical files.
Electronic records in this series consist of files used to compile the dance capsules. Pioneered by the Cunningham Dance Foundation before it closed, these digital capsules were created to preserve 58 works from the Cunningham repertory for study and setting the dances on other companies. The Events capsule contains files from many separate Events.
The capsules include varying levels of detail in content. Dance capsule files may include a brief description of the dance, audio samples of music, scans of costume sketches, photographs, and set designs, lighting plots, video clips of the entire dance or just a portion, and choreographic notes.
Organized into productions and events, productions are arranged alphabetically by title of piece. Electronic records are currently unavailable.
The photographs series consists of professional prints, slides and negatives of dancers, artists, Cunningham, and individual productions and events. The individuals files are largely headshots, though photographs of Merce Cunningham also consist of unlabeled rehearsal, workshop, and performance shots. The productions and events images are either action shots of the dance in progress or full stage shots of the props and art used in tandem with each piece. There are also candid snapshots from galas and other CDF events, and photographs of posters, magazine covers, and other material related to CDF. Promotional photographs include images of the full company used for advertising. Photographs of the archive as it was housed at CDF before its move to the library are here.
Electronic records in this series are 80 images taken of a Totem Ancestor revival.
Arranged alphabetically by file title. Electronic records are currently unavailable.
Series VI holds programs and accompanying ephemera documenting performances by the Merce Cunningham Dance Company and the Repertory Understudy group. The bulk of the materials date from 2003 to 2011, and contain some promotional materials interspersed with the programs. These items include venue calendars, ticket stubs, souvenir booklets, flyers, postcards, organizational publications, and invitations. A smaller selection of programs dating from 1950 to 2002 are also present, as well as materials representing the performances of Cunningham choreography by outside dance companies. This series also holds monographs, exhibition catalogs, and other materials showcasing festivals, lectures, art installations, tribute galas, and other events involving Cunningham and his collaborators (including John Cage, Charles Atlas, Bruce Nauman, Robert Rauschenberg and fashion house Comme des Garçons).
Press and publicity materials consist of advertising files, clippings, flyers, CDF newsletters, and press releases. Advertising files hold correspondence with dance magazines and other publications as well as design mockups. The clippings (both domestic and foreign) were kept by administrative staff throughout CDF's existence. Many of the clippings are photocopy reproductions. Press releases document new works, changes at the company, tour dates, and fundraising galas. CDF newsletters (2006-2008) were sent to donors, other dance companies, and various other supporters of Cunningham's work and provided updates on upcoming events and seasons, as well as articles by Cunningham himself. The flyers, used for advertisement on tour and when the company was in residence at City Center or another venue, advertise performance dates, ticket sale times, and workshops.
Electronic records in this series are scanned clippings, 1989-1990.
Arranged alphabetically by file title. Electronic records are currently unavailable.