Adieu Merce

A poem marking the final performance of the Merce Cunningham Dance Company, New York City, December 31st 2011. I spent large portions of my childhood with this dance company, from about age three to age eight, when my mother Barbara Dilley (then Barbara Lloyd) was a dancer in his company, and my father Lewis Lloyd was the company manager.  I went on tour to Europe with them in 1965 and to South America in 1968. I spent afternoons watching Merce put the dancers through their paces in his studio, snapping his fingers so loudly they sounded to me like gunshots. To this day, the smell of human sweat makes me think of dancers. I remember shouting “Bravo Mommy!” in giant ornate opera houses, napping in tour busses and swimming in hotel pools. It sounds glamorous and it wasn’t. Somewhere there is a picture of me at six years old stretching in cowboy boots next to my mom on a giant stage somewhere. I was supposed to be with her at the company’s final show tonight, but my own artistic career prevented it. Merce would approve.

Mom’s in the background


Adieu Merce

though your body is gone

it is tonight which marks the great departure of your gift and vision.

Merce with Martha Graham, his teacher.

You were in the movement of others

the assemblage of dancers on stages

the rush of bodies in studios

the organism made by many under one mind.

Rainforest, with Merce holding my mom in front.

You taught us that we are beautiful as we are

and need no accompaniment

for the extraordinary ordinary dance of our lives.

Mom far background right.

And yet you were so beautiful

graceful huge and strong

with a focus which could freeze movement

drawing our attention to the tilt of a head

the gesture of a hand

a kneel.

Merce and mom in Rainforest

I grew up around you and watched

my mother dance for you

and my father support you.

What have you left in me, thirty five years later,

after I threw my six year cowboy boot clad feet over my head

learning to stretch with you and mom?

Merce and his life partner, the composer John Cage

Be playful and uncompromising about your art Benjy.

Give thanks for your creativity and pass it along to everyone who needs it.

Which is everyone.