Merce Cunningham’s Split Sides (2003) captures the iconic modernist choreographer’s most radical use of chance procedures. As the title implies, the piece is divided into two parts. Each 20-minute part features one of two options for the different creative elements of the piece: set design, costumes, lighting, music, and choreography. The order in which each element appears during a given performance is determined by an onstage dice roll before the performance, captured on full screen for the live audience. There are thus 32 possible combinations for any performance of Split Sides. In addition to Merce Cunningham’s two choreographic segments, the work features two set designs (one by Robert Heishman and one by Catherine Yass), two sets of costumes (by James Hall), and two lighting plots (by James F. Ingalls). Original scores, composed specifically for this collaboration by the British alternative rock group Radiohead and the Icelandic experimentalist group Sigur Rós, offer the two choices of music.
This two-disc DVD set, by giving viewers the opportunity to alternate soundtracks, presents 4 of the 32 possible variations of the work. Filmmaker Charles Atlas masterfully captures the dance with Merce close at his side. Cunningham calls the films Split Sides 45 and Split Sides 46, because they capture the 45th and 46th performances of this epic collaboration.
Split Sides 45
Choreography A followed by B
-Music in the basic presentation is Sigur Rós ( ba ba ti ki di do ) followed by Radiohead
-Alternative sound options are Radiohead followed by Sigur Rós or silent with the same dance footage (Total Running Time: 2:06:00)
Split Sides 46
Choreography B followed by A
-Music in the basic presentation is Radiohead followed by Sigur Rós
-Alternative sound options are Sigur Rós followed by Radiohead or silent with the same dance footage (Total Running Time: 2:06:00)