Fri Dec 16 2011
I'm sure that happens constantly when you're performing.
Oh, constantly. Let's say at the very beginning of Nearly Ninety , if you fall out of something, you have a whole hour and a half to go. But it's all part of the process. In Suite for Five , I just do it; I just have to do it. The thing is, I've done it without making any overt fumbles, and to be honest, if I don't make it look hard then they don't think it's hard. They don't get how difficult it is. So there's something about that whole mentality that I think is really messed up, but it's hard to escape. Also in Suite , the duet is just so sensual. I love it so much. I did it originally with Holley [Farmer], and now I do it with Andrea. It's completely different, and both are wonderful partners. And you know, I'm replacing Cdric, so again it's like someone who Andrea loved and loves very much, but she and I have a really great rapport partnering. I really love dancing with her. I love Antic Meet of course.
You're so good in that.
It was a blast; I had so much fun. Fabrications was fun. I get to do Merce in that, too. I love XOVER . He made that duet—I was there through the whole process, but I thought it was made mainly on me and Jamie Scott. The way he sculpted was very interesting—I just had no idea what he was going to do next. I don't think he made it for me, but I think it was the first time that I realized that he was accentuating my isms, or my tendencies, maybe on purpose. I can't be sure. Or if he was allowing me to do that, perhaps? That was really nice. I felt very comfortable doing it. But that's another one that has two very distinct casts. And now Julie's [Cunningham] not around anymore, so I do it with Melissa. But it was very special dancing with Julie because she's one of my best friends. Maybe because of that duet, I don't know; it helped.
Would you talk about performing Merce's parts?
Before he died, there weren't so many. I can't say I'm taking liberties, but I'm just allowing things to happen more so now than I did when he was alive. Because I remember when he was alive, he was constantly changing the dances. Like he would outright change things. I've never outright changed a dance, but I do wonder if I would have had the confidence to let something in and to see if he would have liked it or not. When I was dancing Suite , we worked very closely on that for many hours, so I knew exactly what he was asking me for. It didn't necessarily feel like I had any ownership over that role; I felt completely safe in what I was doing because he told me everything he wanted me to do. And now when I dance his roles—and this may sound weird—but before RainForest or Antic Meet , I separate myself from the other dancers. Sometimes I try to have fun backstage before, so I can get over my nerves, but for those two dances I stay away and try to maybe inhabit that in the dance. Not that they'll necessarily respond to that, but I feel like if I seem like I have an ownership when I'm onstage, it might be more true to the original feeling of the piece. Because he is so separate.
Has anyone challenged you in terms of changing things?
No. There is one thing in Suite . Cdric had taught me one way because he was taught that way by Merce, and then Merce was looking at it—my arm was in second and my palm was out—and he said, "Flip your palm this way." I saw a video years later of him dancing it pretty much when he made it, and his palm was up. So in Suite I did take some ideas from that video because I saw that he was remembering. There was a famous picture of him on the floor in Suite , and I didn't know what it was from until I saw the video and where it fit into the piece. I think he remembered that he went to the floor, but maybe he didn't necessarily remember that shape that he made. I don't know if he cut it on purpose or...I tried adding it back in. That's kind of the most daring thing I did, and Robert gave me his blessing, so I went with it. But no one's ever directly challenged me.
Does Robert watch you in rehearsal, and do you watch each other?
Yes and yes. Especially since he's in some of the dances, we have to watch each other. I'm not very into giving much advice or any opinions, but I'll take them from people. It's weird—I don't want the dances to stop growing, but I don't want to change them.
It's August now. What is this experience like right now?
It's really hard. When the year first started, we still had a ton of pieces to bring back, and the memory of Merce and how he worked was more fresh in my mind. I still continue to work generally in the way that he demanded, but it's really hard when he's not sitting there. You just do it because he's there and he's watching. And you want him to like you and you want him to respect your work ethic. Because having gone home with him, he acknowledged when people weren't doing what he wanted. So maybe he didn't do it in front of you, but I know that he said things when he wasn't with you, so that might affect how he treated you in casting or how he treated you in rehearsals. So you just did exactly what he asked. One day he was talking, and nobody was listening. I was still a RUG, so the first thing I did when I finished running a piece was look at him, because he didn't always say anything. And everyone's talking—blah, blah, blah, blah. He kicked the chair, and I remember thinking like, God, are they crazy? But now I sort of understand why they didn't directly go to him, because he didn't always want to say something. The thing is that the work isn't getting any easier. If we take it easy on ourselves, it's just going to get harder. I've had three weeks off, and a day hasn't gone by when I haven't done at least class and swimming or class and working out and swimming and biking or something. Mainly because of Suite for Five and Sounddance .
So that's the physical side of it. What about the mental side of it?
Merce isn't as fresh in my mind, but I still say to myself, Oh, I don't know if I should do this or this, I'll just ask Merce when I see him. I still say that. The words have come out of my mouth. I've said to Robert before, "Why don't you just ask Merce?" He looks at me like, what ? I don't know what that's about, to be honest. It just didn't dawn on me before he died that the minute he died we'd have no more answers.
Even though, in the end, he wasn't around as much?
But the thing is he was. It was really like a matter of weeks, maybe two. The very last thing he did, he came in and he connected Nearly Ninety —the first section with the second section. He made a duet on Melissa and Brandon and on me and Marcie. Then he gave Marcie a pattern, and then he gave me a pattern, and he left, and that was it. That was the last we ever saw of him in the studio. It wasn't long after that that we left and he died. I don't really know if I can say why it's hard. There are some people in the company who were only RUGs, so they don't know what it feels like to be on the other side of Merce's thing where he's seemingly replacing you. And they also didn't work with Daniel [Squire] and Holley and Koji [Mizuta], which I think—for me, it felt like I had, not parents, but people to look up. First of all, Koji was full of so much information. I could always ask Koji.
Yes. He was supportive and he was very generous with information and time. He just knew everything. He knew every step. And Holley—I love her. Daniel took leadership seriously, and he was good at it, and it wasn't like I was scared of him, but I wanted to please him, and I wanted his help, and there was feeling of, these people have been here longer, and when they speak you listen. And it's great now; everyone's sort of equal in the group, but I kind of miss that—where if there's some kind of discrepancy, you just go with the people who've been there the longest. And we do have those authority figures, they just don't behave that way. Which is great and—
It's good and bad.
Yeah. I kind of wish they did. But it's more pleasant that they don't, you know?