Cunningham Technique is a rigorous class based on the traditional structure and exercises developed by Merce Cunningham to train his dancers for his company.
The class emphasizes rhythmical accuracy, clarity of form, coordination of torso and legwork, and development of virtuosity. Merce Cunningham’s choreography inspires this highly technical class and will be incorporated into the movement phrases.
“The daily discipline, the continued keeping of the elasticity of the muscles, the continued control of the mind over the body’s actions, the constant hoped-for flow of the spirit into physical movement, both new and renewed, is not a natural way. It is unnatural in its demands on all the sources of energy. But the final synthesis can be a natural one, natural in the sense that the mind, body and spirit function as one.”
Originally from Illinois, Janet Charleston moved to New York City after college and has been based there ever since. She danced and toured in the companies of Lucinda Childs (for 5 years, and performed in the 1992 world tour of Einstein on the Beach) and Douglas Dunn (first joined the company in 1993 and after a hiatus rejoined in 2013 as Rehearsal Director). Currently she performs with Douglas Dunn + Dancers and Christopher Williams Dance. She has enjoyed working with an array of other artists including Chamecki/Lerner, Kota Yamazaki, David Parker/The Bang Group, RoseAnne Spradlin, Stephen Koester, Brenda Daniels and June Finch.
Janet began her long relationship with Cunningham technique studying at the Cunningham Studio in 1985 on a merit scholarship, and also received the Gould Scholarship, chosen for one dancer each year by Merce Cunningham. Invited by Cunningham to teach at his studio in 2001, she was on faculty until the studio’s planned closing in 2012. She has continued to teach in professional training programs including the Salzburg Experimental Academy of Dance and the Joffrey Jazz & Contemporary Trainee Program, and in colleges and universities including as Visiting Lecturer at the University of Illinois and the University of Kansas, guest teacher at SUNY-Purchase, NYU Tisch School of the Arts, NYU Steinhardt, Hofstra University, and Franklin & Marshall, and most recently at Sarah Lawrence College, Barnard College and El Centro Cultural Los Talleres, Mexico. In 2008 Janet was awarded a Fulbright Teaching Scholarship to bring Cunningham’s technique and legacy to Santiago, Chile, and subsequently served as a Peer Reviewer in Dance for the Fulbright organization. Janet’s choreography has been presented at venues in New York City, Arizona, Kansas, Missouri, Illinois and Chile. She holds an MFA in Dance from the University of Illinois, U-C.
In her Cunningham technique classes Janet emphasizes healthy and efficient biomechanics, dynamic alignment, clarity, rhythm, exploration, and fulfilling each moment. She coaches finding connection and ease in the body while practicing this rigorous technique.