I have not had much experience in the Cunningham technique yet, but in our last composition class, Patricia Lent (Director of Licensing of the Cunningham Trust), came in to give us a lesson in Chance Operations.
Merce Cunningham used Chance Operations for much of his choreographing career, and it was interesting to learn the techniques of this compositional tool. Chance Operations do not leave the dancer floundering or improving on the spot, rather Merce worked out these chances well before the choreography was taught to the cast. These operations use dice to determine sequencing of phrases, spatial pathways, timing, etc. In Patricia’s master class we learned this through example as we rolled dice to see the order of our phrases, pathways across the floor, and when we would start in relation to the rest of the group.
Connections that I wouldn’t ordinarily think of came together out of this use of chance. They were always there, forcing a particular order just helped them to become apparent. Sometimes it was an interesting transition, other times a unique grouping of dancers, and still others distinctly different spatial pathways.
I found Chance Operations very helpful in generating movement, and am excited to add them to my compositional toolbox.