Why ‘RHOBH’ Star Sutton Stracke Has Dance Legend Merce Cunningham’s Ashes

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Feb. 8 2024, Published 10:19 a.m. ET

Sutton Stracke RHOBH promo S13
Source: Bravo

The current season of The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills has featured an interesting journey for Sutton Stracke. She’s had to deal with Annemarie Wiley’s odd fascination with her esophagus and backlash after she stormed out of Magic Mike Live. Now, the cast is in Spain for another trip, and this time, Sutton brought a very special guest, legendary dancer and choreographer Merce Cunningham, in a Ziploc bag.

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Sutton’s Season 13 rollercoaster has been fascinating. She went from being excited to “make it rain” at Magic Mike Live to clutching her pearls when a stripper’s face said hello to Erika Jayne below the belt. Sutton claimed that the reason she rushed out so quickly was because she sits on the board of the American Ballet Theater. One can imagine that the position is important to her, given her relationship with Merce and her overall connection to the dance world.

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Who Is Merce Cunningham to Sutton Stracke from 'RHOBH'?

Merce was a world-renowned dancer, choreographer, and film producer. He launched his dance company, The Merce Cunningham Dance Company (MCDC), in 1953. Decades later, a young lady by the name of Sutton Stracke began working for the company as their studio manager. Sutton’s arrival at the company was more like kismet than happenstance. She shared that she was originally supposed to audition for the José Limón Dance Company but decided not to go and took the job at MCDC.

Source: Walker Art Center
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Sutton Stracke’s former boss, Merce Cunningham, was a legendary artist.

Merce wasn’t just a dancer and choreographer. He was an interdisciplinary artist who worked with all artistic mediums: film, music, visual art, and, of course, dance. He began to make a name for himself in the 1940s when he and his life partner, John Cage, began to play with the idea that “music and dance could exist independently within the same performance.” This was a concept not yet seen in the dance world, where the music is typically the driving force behind the choreography.

Source: BAMOrg
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Merce Cunningham changed the world of dance forever.

His innovative way of looking at dance and movement is what made him stand out as a choreographer. In an interview with Vulture, World-famous dancer Mikhail Baryshnikov once said of Merce’s work, “I understood more and more the way he works and challenges his imagination and his dancers, and I became a Merce junkie.” High praise from one of the greatest classical dancers to grace stages across the world. Merce’s contemporary look at movement cinched his place in dance history, and his artistic career as a whole is what makes him a legend.

Dorit Kemsley, Erika Jayne, Garcelle Beauvais, Sutton Stracke, and Kyle Richards 'RHOBH' S13
Source: Bravo
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Sutton’s bond with Merce is beautiful.

Sutton’s decision to work for the MCDC was one she reflects on with gratitude. She danced there and eventually became the director of development, doing her part to raise money for the company’s mission. “I looked up to Merce like he was a god,” she shared. Her friendship with him lasted decades until he died in 2009, after which Sutton learned that he left his ashes to her.

Sutton Stracke at BravoCon
Source: Bravo

Why did Sutton bring Merce to Spain?

The ladies are staying at a villa in Sitges, Spain, which is one of the first places the MCDC performed in Europe. The significance of the location is clear. Sutton put sincere thought into this trip in order to honor Merce’s memory. The ceremony itself was not without the usual RHOBH drama; Dorit Kemsley seemed bored by the ritual, while Crystal Kung-Minkoff was uncomfortable due to the flowers being white, as white is symbolic of death in her culture. Regardless, it was still a beautiful tribute from Sutton to her long-departed friend, Merce.

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