OF all the arts, dancing and painting are probably the most difficult

to describe in print. Merce Cunningham, back in London for a welcome

two-week, four-programme season, is a dance creator who uses the best

scenic designers, chosen from his country's most distinguished painters.

On this night they include Dove Bradshaw and William Anastasi. No work

in this programme is earlier than 1988.

A dancer since 1939, Cunningham has only recently given up dancing

roles in every programme -- although he is included in two of the four

the company are performing in London. All the choreography is by this

American founder himself and it's as original, quirky and stimulating as

ever. This is dance with its roots way back in the early American

contemporary tradition, and I hope that's not a contradiction in terms.

While rejecting the pure forms of classical dance, there is grace,

style and technique here. Titles, such as Eleven, Cargo X or August Pace

are labels rather than descriptions -- though 11 dancers do participate

in the first work. More serious than Paul Taylor's work, Cunningham's

dance is often exhilarating with fleeting partnerships, groupings and

separations, performed with skill by dancers who don't look like dancers

-- and that's not meant to be insulting. See the company and you'll

understand how a new dance language was formed many years ago.