The Film

Dance is unlike any other art. It has no script or score. There’s no painting to hang on the wall. 

If a dance is not danced, it vanishes. 

If the Dancer Dances reveals what it takes to keep a dance alive.

A documentary film starring the Stephen Petronio Company and members of the former Merce Cunningham Dance Company. 

Release date: 2018

Trailer coming soon!

On Dance

"The beauty and tender and amazing thing about dance is that it gets passed from one body and one soul to another."

— Stephen Petronio




If the Dancer Dances invites viewers into the intimate world of the dance studio, where three former members of the Merce Cunningham Dance Company teach Cunningham's 1968 RainForest to the Stephen Petronio Company. One of this generation’s leading modern dance choreographers, Stephen is determined to help his dancers breathe new life into this great work. Timed to coincide with Cunningham’s centennial, the film tracks the dancers’ often intensely personal challenges, as they reveal what it takes to keep a dance alive. If the Dancer Dances is the first documentary on the subject of Cunningham’s work since his passing in 2009.


A film by
Lise Friedman & Maia Wechsler

Written and produced by Lise Friedman & Maia Wechsler

Directed by Maia Wechsler

Edited by Mary Manhardt


Special Thanks:

National Endowment for the Arts

American Express Foundation

Low Road Foundation

Merce Cunningham Trust

Stephen Petronio Company


Andy Warhol Foundation

David Tudor Project


Our Founding Funders and our many generous supporters

RainForest (as performed by the Stephen Petronio Company, 2015-2017) 
Choreography: Merce Cunningham
Music: David Tudor, Rainforest
Decor: Andy Warhol
Costume Design: after the original design by Jasper Johns
Lighting Design: Aaron Copp
RainForestis used courtesy of the Merce Cunningham Trust.

Stephen Petronio Company,
Artistic Director, Stephen Petronio

© 2018 The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, Inc. / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

© 2018 The Tudor Trust/Performing Artservices


Lise Friedman was a member of the Merce Cunningham Dance Company from 1977 to 1984. She was editor of the award-winning quarterly Dance Ink and is the author of several books, including two Children’s Book of the Month Club Selections. She is coauthor of Letters to Juliet, which inspired the idea behind the eponymous film.

Maia Wechsler is an award-winning documentary filmmaker whose films have been broadcast and seen around the world. Prior to working in film, Maia was a journalist in France and the U.S. She devoted her early life to dance and is today a certified yoga instructor, recently teaching women at Rikers Island.

Mary Manhardt is an Emmy-award winning documentary film editor.  Among her credits: The Farm; The Execution of Wanda Jean; girlhood; Farmingville; Street Fight; Monica & David; Wham! Bam! Islam!; A Son's Sacrifice; Bronx Princess; Camp Victory, Afghanistan; American Promise; Medora;The Babushkas of Chernobyl; Tig; and five episodes of Making a Murderer, the multiple Emmy-award-winning Netflix series.  



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Please join the National Endowment for the Arts, American Express Foundation, our Founding Funders, and many individuals in support of
If the Dancer Dances. Each and every contribution makes a difference.

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