Emma Desjardins



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I'm so sorry.
Yeah, I know. They have sort of a different perspective on technique right now. The department is a little bit less focused on technique and more on composition, and you know, the up-and-coming of New York.

That's such a bad road to go down.
I hope they change their minds. They will continue to have a Cunningham technique class, and Jeff Moen is going to teach them, but I would have hoped that...Jeff Moen is a great teacher, but he didn't dance in the company, and especially at an institution like Barnard—the students are so smart and they'll take whatever information you give them and work with it, but I also think that you need to make technique exciting and accessible, and it's really different when it comes from the experience of actually having danced the work. They're so connected. In the last year or two, there's been a lot more current company members who have started to teach at the studio and in other places, and I hope that that continues. The thing about Banu [Ogan, former company member] is that after she left the company she taught, and so many people in the company now had her set a piece on them in a college. To have that experience is just incredible. And we're the last of the company.

Do you have anything else lined up?
Not really. The studio's going to be open until the end of March. So I don't know exactly how they're making their schedule, but if I can be involved in teaching, I'd love to. There just are fewer students all the time now.

Yeah. So we'll see. And I know that Robert's going to lead a class at City Center, which he's gonna teach as much as he can. I know that he has a lot of work elsewhere as well. So I don't really know how it's all going to play out. I'm hoping that I'll be able to do some teaching. I'm not so worried about it immediately, because I feel like I need to sort myself out, and the trust needs to sort itself out, and eventually there will be some paths that open up. Actually next year there are going to be quite a few [opportunities]: It's the John Cage Centennial, so there are going to be a lot of music concerts throughout the country, and a lot of them are looking for dance components.

Do you prefer teaching advanced or beginners?
It's much easier to teach advanced. All you have to do is make up the combination—you don't really have to get down to the core principles of the technique. But I like teaching. The most teaching I've done is at the Cunningham studio, and I found sometimes it's very difficult because the classes are very mixed, so you get some students who have been there for years and know all the exercises, and in the same class, you have people who have never studied the technique before and don't have that much dance training to begin with. I've also taught younger ballet dancers, and they're totally inexperienced with Merce, but they have some ballet technique, and that's really interesting to me. You get to the core principles of the technique.

And why not start young like you do with ballet?
Yeah, which doesn't really happen with modern dance. I think maybe summer programs are the place to start because they often expand their programming a little bit and have a "modern" class. [ Laughs ] So we'll see. I'm not so worried. I have other things that I want to move on to, so I'm hoping to integrate them.

Like what? Are you choreographing?
No. I never was really interested in choreography, but I would love to freelance for choreographers. I have friends from Barnard who are making work. Things like that. Nothing full time or permanent; no more touring. [ Laughs ] No more extensive touring. I'm also planning to go back to school in the next two years for osteopathy, which hopefully will eventually allow me to work with dancers and movement.

You spoke earlier about how after Merce died you had to work through the sadness. How did you? Were you prepared?
I think we all were prepared as much as you can be prepared. I remember when we were at Wolf Trap—he didn't come with us, but throughout my time in the company, if he wasn't on tour, we would often call and pass the phone around. Everyone in the company would get to say hello. How's the weather in New York? What's happening? [ Laughs ] So that was something that we always did when Merce wasn't with us, and toward the end it became Skype. So when we were at Wolf Trap, it was very clear that he wanted to talk to us. We called, and I was thinking, Oh, you know, it's another one of those preshow chats. Let's talk about the birds I saw here; he might like that. Everyone was gathered around the Skype, and he had an agenda. He wanted to basically say goodbye. It was then another month or so before he died. What he said really was, "Be yourself." That's what I took away from it: Be yourself in everything that you do out there. After that, we all sort of knew—the tone of that conversation was he had some things to say before it was too late. But after that, we did work with him in the studio a few more times so that he could complete the Nearly 90 2 transition, which was the last thing he did. Then, right before we went to Jacob's Pillow, he was getting worse, so Trevor had us all go over and say goodbye. I think we may have even gone twice.

In small groups of four, we went up to his apartment and talked to him, and then we left for Jacob's Pillow and he died on our last night. I don't think that anyone was really shocked, but still, it was all of the sudden reality—it was hard. I think for me where it really was the saddest was doing Nearly Ninety . I remember doing one Nearly Ninety and feeling like it was terrible, awful. I mean, it probably wasn't that bad, but just everything was really hard and, for me, Nearly Ninety is a lot of balancing, and I just felt like every single time I was falling over. I felt like I had let him down in that piece, which was his last piece. We performed it a lot. After he died, we had a weeklong run of that in Paris. Doing Nearly Ninety was  part of the process of grieving.

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