Celebrating Blondell Cummings (1944–2015)
Dancer, Choreographer, Activist, and NYFA Artist & Advisor
Three-time fellowship recipient and world-renowned dancer/choreographer/activist Blondell Cummings passed away this Sunday at her home in Manhattan. She died at the age of seventy and lived in the New York area for most of her life. Blondell Cummings was an inaugural NYFA fellow in choreography and went on to receive a second fellowship in 1989 and a third in 1996. Cummings also served on NYFA’s Artist Advisory Committee from 1999 to 2003.
Her career as an artist was full of achievements. She was an original member of The House, a modern dance organization founded in 1968 by Meredith Monk (Fellow in Music Composition ‘85, Choreography ‘96). In 1978 Cummings established her own arts collective, the Cycle Arts Foundation, which promoted interdisciplinary collaboration. Her 1981 solo piece titled Chicken Soup was considered her most-famed work. Chicken Soup addressed Cummings’ childhood recollections of her grandmother in the kitchen and featured her dancing with a frying pan and scrubbing the floor. Other notable works by Cummings include Women in the Dunes and Food for Thought.
Over the course of her career Cummings collaborated with artists such as Jessica Hagedorn (Fellow in Playwriting/Screenwriting ‘91), Jamaica Kincaid, Yvonne Rainer (Fellow in Film ‘90, ‘95), and many others. She received her bachelor’s degree in dance and education from New York University and later earned a master’s in fine arts from Lehman College. She also studied at the Martha Graham School of Contemporary Dance.
Cummings embraced the actions of everyday life and in turn made moments such as those spent in the kitchen into poetic expressions of politics and empowerment. Her contribution to avant-garde performance will not be forgotten. NYFA is honored to have supported her career and she will be missed.
Read more about Cummings in the New York Times.
Image credit: Cummings in Chicken Soup, photo © Lois Greenfield