Mon Dec 19 2011
How did he create that?
He did some of the material in class and he pulled me aside and said, "Andrea, remember this—this is for you." He used to do this where he would pick material from class and give in to someone. He did that with Melissa [Toogood] for her solo. I held onto the material for like a week or two, and then he was like, "Oh, do you remember this material?" And he fiddled a while with Daniel and Rashaun, and we figured out this trio and it was created on the spot for us, and I treasure it.
Can you describe it?
I come out very slowly and then they come out and catch me and it's all off-balance. I'm usually on one leg twisting and they're pulling me off my leg, twisting, and it kind of circles and moves forward. And then they let me go and I do the slow material again. We do another pattern of this weight-shifting, twisting arabesque movement. It's a little harder for them; it's definitely where I get to feel pretty and taken care of and they're supporting me the whole time. You know, it was really funny with the solo material: With mine, he was really like, "Cross your right leg over your left and go slowly around" and it took maybe five minutes to create it. And then he was like, "I think socks might be a very good idea." And I was like, "What are you talking about Merce?" And he was talking about the Quarry and it was going to be cold. It was like he just like realized that socks would be a good idea. And I was kind of like, Well, are we done here? Do you want me to do it again for you?
That's pretty funny.
Yeah. It was hysterical. It was so Merce to just like, you know, also be kind of funny and thinking about the weather...
The practical side.
The practical! I left the room and I was like, That was really weird.
He was the kind of choreographer that you would interact with?
I definitely did. I would go up to him and say hi and give him a hug. I think I made him laugh. I really liked him. I liked to know how he was doing. I loved that he loved plants; I love plants. And actually, there was one summer where I grew way too many tomatoes and I brought him a tomato, and we had this whole tomato thing where I would like check on his tomato and he'd talk about the tomato when actually he didn't know it was a tomato for a really long time—he thought it was a potato and then a strawberry.
So you brought him a plant?
A plant. I definitely would talk to him about little things and he made me laugh and I think he thought I was odd. I would talk about the weather and nature with him and stuff like that. I miss running into him because you'd sometimes leave with him on the elevator and you would talk about like the funniest things—because he didn't need to talk about the day or your dancing or any of that stuff. It wasn't about that.
What would he talk about?
I remember one time he was like, "Oh, I met Dylan's dad." And I'd be like, "Okay! That's really awesome." And I remember one time, we were talking about the Beijing Olympics and I was like, "Did you see the choreography?" The masses of people, I think, bothered him a little bit, just this militant togetherness. He wasn't quite as impressed as I was. [Laughs] He always surprised me with his opinion of things.
You spoke earlier about how he could see the overall picture, and I'm guessing that could be what's missing the most now. Could you talk about that?
I think that's where it falls on us. And when he was ailing, he did have a few moments where he told us these things. He would say, "Remember why you came to dancing and that you love dancing. It doesn't give anything back," and just that we're individuals and that we need to hold onto that. I think that the continual pushing, that way that he was able to guide each of us and push us in a new direction and challenge ourselves is what we are responsible for bringing to the work now. And hopefully we'll get the opportunities to transfer that in master classes and in staging the work later. It's also just a fact that he could change things and none of us are at real liberty to do that, so that whole element of making a choice, which he was so fond of—and the choice could be different and it could even be different among people in a unison phrase. It's like how do you manage that kind of openness that he'd have? That's a real dilemma. Is it any of our right to be able to do that? When you have a double-cast part, I really miss how he would treat them like two pieces. That it would be okay for two people to do things slightly differently, but managing that in our rehearsals is very delicate. Jamie [Scott] and I share a part in RainForest and we just decided to watch everyone who ever did it, and then we made our own choices about it, and in the rehearsal space some of it reads and some of it doesn't, and Robert is there to try to guide us in that experience. But that's where I miss him so much, because I have no idea what he would say or how he would want me to do it. Crazier or calmer? Or find the stillness?
Well I was going to ask about that? Do you work with former dancers like Carolyn Brown?
Carolyn comes in a lot. Out of everything, she's coached me the most. I definitely know her opinions about that the most. For Antic Meet she came in along with Valda Setterfield and Gus Solomons [Jr.], and that was fun. It's always fun when someone new comes in, because it's a new approach. I can predict some of the things Carolyn would probably say to me just because you get similar things over time with anyone. It's always a real treat when Meg [Harper] comes in, because her perspective on the work is so different. She talks about intent a lot. That's really fun.
Because there's freedom in that.
There is and again, managing that is delicate because definitely Merce allowed that, but how much does a rehearsal director who's not Merce allow that? You know it's a very delicate thing. Merce did trust us in his work. Sometimes people come in to watch here and there, but less so the '90s generation.