Jamie Scott

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Who was in charge at Barnard?
It was Janet Soares. Mary [Cochran] came my last year. I figured out that there was actually a dance program and good dance classes, so I started taking ballet, and then my first semester there I did a piece with Danny Pelzig, who was a guest teacher at the time. He does Broadway stuff now, but he taught ballet class and he used modern dancers and ballet dancers. There was a small group of us. So it was my first taste of doing something a little bit outside of what I had known as classical dance.

What were you studying at Barnard?
I didn't know what I wanted to do. I thought I was going to be an art history major. I have studied Japanese my whole life.

Really? That's crazy. How did that happen?
The elementary school I went to had a Japanese-immersion program, and it was just our public school, right by my house. So first through sixth grade, my parents put me in it. It was Japanese for the first half of the day—so you'd do your math, your science and your health in Japanese, and then switch the other half of the day. So I started then and stuck with it through high school. So I was taking Japanese classes at Columbia, too. I wasn't interested in business, and we had been put under the impression at a very young age that that was the thing: We were going to learn Japanese and be really good at business. [ Laughs ] We were going to be translators! And that wasn't really appealing to me, so I didn't know what I was going to do with it. I just stuck with it because it was interesting, and I was learning a lot. And then I started taking East Asian Studies courses, and I think I would have double-majored if I could have dropped the language, but I wanted to keep the language. So I went to Tokyo for a semester and tried to experience that through the language. And then I ended up majoring in dance. [ Laughs ]

That's amazing. So when the company goes on tour to Japan...
We don't. I was so devastated that that was never happening. They had gone a long time ago, and I was really hoping that they would go back. It would have been so fun for me.

And if you had been around for Scenario when Rei Kawakubo designed the costumes.
Yeah. But I get to talk with [Takehisa] Kosugi [the company's music director] a little bit, which is fun.

So you majored in dance. What were some other performing experiences there?
When I really figured out that I wanted to go the modern-dance route in my sophomore year. Elisa Monte came and set Pigs and Fishes , and it was the first time that I had done anything barefoot. First of all, it was so amazing not to be on pointe shoes on this crappy stage where everyone was slipping and falling, and I got the solo part, and it was exciting. I had so much fun.

It was natural.
Yeah. But I didn't have any interest in Merce at the time.

Had you seen his work?
I'd had only seen it in dance history class on video, and it wasn't exciting to me on film. I didn't see the company perform until my senior year at the Joyce doing Events , and I was floored. I was like, This is what I want to do. I was sold.

What was it?
I think it was the training. It was also that I could see each individual dancer. I could really see the different personalities of each one without acting. I hate it—I took Martha Graham classes at Barnard, and I hated having to emote on call. I'm not that dancer. So suddenly there's this thing that's technically really rigorous. The dancers were all so beautiful, and each of them had an individual voice that came out so clearly. And I cried. I never cry during shows. So I knew that was the thing I had to go for.

So you went to the studio for the first time.
Well, Barnard offered Cunningham classes, so I finally took them for a semester, then I started going to the studio. And I still remember that first class, just being in that space in the evening, and there were so many people. It was so crowded, and everyone was moving together, breathing together. I graduated from Barnard. I had been taking Cunningham classes a little bit that spring in the studio when I could. Maybe I was there for a few days, but then I took a month to go to Europe and audition and see what was out there—I took classes with different companies. By the end of that, I was kind of disappointed and underwhelmed. I came back—so that was the summer of 2005—and auditioned for a scholarship in the fall. I was a student for a year and a half. And then I got to do some extra projects, and then got hired as an understudy.

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Janet Soares
Janet Soares

Lovely, honest interview. I really enjoyed reading it!