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Scroll down to learn what it took to keep a dance – and a legacy – alive.


“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. Stephen Petronio, one of today’s leading dance-makers, is determined to help his dancers breathe new life into RainForest (1968), an iconic work by the legendary choreographer Merce Cunningham. With help from three members of the former Cunningham company, the film tracks Petronio’s dancers as they strive to re-stage this great work, revealing what it takes to keep a dance – and a legacy – alive. Timed to coincide with Cunningham’s centennial, 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

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.

RainForest Credits

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
RainForest is used courtesy of the Merce Cunningham Trust.

Stephen Petronio Company,
Artistic Director, Stephen Petronio

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!