Where’s Merce? He’s in the Purse. (His Ashes, That Is.)

“Can you get my drink, and I’ll get Merce?“

In certain circles — OK, mine — that name can belong to only one person: Merce Cunningham, the 20th-century choreographer who reshaped modern dance. Over the past few weeks, his name has come up in the strangest of places: “The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills.”

On recent episodes, Sutton Stracke traveled to Spain with her fellow Housewives. Along with racks of designer clothes, she brought Cunningham’s ashes packed in a Ziploc bag. Cunningham, it turns out, was one of the most important men in her pre-“Housewives” life, and she wanted to release the ashes “in a significant place and make this a really meaningful trip.”

Dismay ensued. “Put me in a Birkin, fine,” Kyle Richards, another Housewife, said. “But a Ziploc? No.”

And out of Erika Girardi’s tipsy mouth poured this gem at dinner: “Merce is in the purse.”

Worlds are truly colliding. Cunningham, who died in 2009 at 90, is an indelible part of dance history but less familiar to the general public. As Stracke told her castmates, “He’s a real big deal.” How big? Stracke explained that he was a founder of modern dance.

Girardi asked, “With Martha Graham and all them?”

“Yes,” Stracke said.

“Twyla?” Girardi said, referring to Twyla Tharp. Girardi, who performs pop music as Erika Jayne, has long worked with the choreographer Mikey Minden, and knows a thing or two.

“Twyla studied under him,” Stracke said.

“OK,” Girardi said with detectable pride, “There you go.”

Erika Girardi revealed the location of Cunningham’s ashes (a purse) over a tipsy dinner.Credit…Bravo/NBCUniversal

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