Fri Dec 16 2011
So you just dropped everything and went?
Yeah, whatever, screw it. I didn't even change my clothes. Just ran in. The day I realized that I thought maybe he was going to hire me as a RUG, he tapped my back—we were taking Merce's class. He brought me into the office and started looking at the calendar like he was trying to figure something out and he said, "Well, I need a RUG. "And I was like, Do you want me to find you one or do you want me to be one? Can you just say what you want? [ Laughs ] And he said, "Do you want to do it?" That was how I started.
How long were you a RUG?
From November of 2005 through, technically, August of 2007, but it was way before that that I started training because Cdric [Andrieux] announced that he was leaving earlier that year. I started working, just like everyone else, on roles.
How much contact did you have with Cunningham?
Melissa [Toogood] and I entered the RUGs at the same time. For a long time Merce, I guess, wasn't doing that well—because he was sleeping a lot...I don't really know. And then one day he just woke up and started choreographing. The whole time I was a RUG, he was choreographing on us. It seemed like he was watching and waiting for probably me to be ready for it. Because Melissa was ready right away. She knew what she was doing. She's amazing. I wasn't quite at that level yet. He started with the very beginning of eyeSpace . Cdric did all the parts that I originated with Merce, and I just slipped back into them when he left.
How impossible was it to go from Graham to Cunningham? What are the similarities?
Well, the torso is very similar. Merce broke it down more into smaller pieces. I still use the idea of the contraction, but he broke up the contraction. He thought of the back in different segments so I just had to reorganize the way I thought about it. Not even reorganize, I just had to add onto it because I suppose that's where he came from. And the whole time I knew him, he often spoke to me like a Graham dancer. He would say, "Contract, release." Sometimes he said to dancers in the company who didn't have Graham training something like, "Really straighten your back as you stand up," and to me he just said, "Release as you stand up." He knew I knew what it was.
What did he substitute for contract?
"Lower back curve" or "deepen your curve." Robert's the same way because Robert had a lot of Graham training, so you can tell if you look at us onstage. I never got rid of it. I like it. But my legs needed to catch up.
That's the difference.
Yeah. It's really the major difference, I think. I also got lucky because [executive director] Trevor [Carlson] needed someone to take Merce home for a few months, so I took him home. We had a car; I would do the lifting work with Merce and take him home, and every day he would say, "Do you want a glass of wine?" So I always had a glass of wine with Merce and fed his cat sometimes, or heated up his meal or whatever he needed.
What did you talk about?
Oh, the weather very often. He just asked me a lot of questions. I was shy. I didn't want to say the wrong thing.
What did he ask you about?
He would ask me about school. He said, "I hear you're finishing with your schoolwork. So what now?" And I said, "Well, maybe one day I'll go back to school." And he said, "What? I say once you leave school, you should never go back." I don't know if he was kidding or not. I like this one quote of John Cage which is, "As far as consistency of thought goes, I prefer inconsistency," and I said that to Merce, and he said, "Yeah. Well obviously, because otherwise you're on a one-way train." I hadn't even thought about it that way.
So you did that for a few months.
Yeah. Sometimes it was funny, because sometimes he wasn't in the best mood. One day I was taking him to an art opening. I think he was sitting with two of his closest friends, and they were chatting. Then other people came up and started bothering him, and he gave me the look. I took him outside and he seemed bothered. He used to say, "The weather, it's like spring," or, "It's like fall!" and I said, "Merce, it's so beautiful out here—it's so warm, it's like spring." And he said, "Not as warm as it was up there with all that hot air going on." He was so funny.