Fri Dec 9 2011
What was the experience performing later that summer in Battery Park?
Highly emotional. I had had a dream that night and, as weird as it sounds, Merce was in the dream. I don't remember specifically, but in my dream, we danced and he bowed with us. I woke up hysterically crying, and it was one of those things that I couldn't even really talk about with anybody because I just felt like I was going to cry all day long. You know, when you can't control it because you're so emotional? And I remember coming out to do this duet with Rashaun, and we hadn't been partners for very long. I think maybe that was the first time we had done it together, but it was a duet that I had been doing since I joined the company. I went to do this arch back outside in this beautiful weather, and I couldn't—you know when your diaphragm starts to shake and you're starting to tear up. And Rashaun said, "I've never had to support you so much doing that before," and I was like, "Well, that's because I was about to start hysterically crying!" I remember, afterwards, looking out in the audience: You could feel the support. You could feel the love in the air.
It was just haunting. And that blue sky.
Yeah. We were so exhausted. Didn't we do it twice in one day? We were supposed to do it twice again and there was a horrible storm. We were all relieved. We were like, It never rains for these kind of outdoor things. Never. It never does. Ever. We're like, Well, somebody wants to give us a break now, don't they?
What are your plans? You're staging Cunningham pieces, right?
Yeah. I've had the experience of staging the same work twice and to do some solos with some students. I am definitely interested in any opportunities to stage the work. I would love to continue doing that. And teaching opportunities as they arise. Definitely interested in continuing to teach.
Do you think that ballet companies can do Merce's work well? How do you feel about all that?
How do I say this? It's possible. Yes. What is different generally about ballet training is that ballet dancers generally create the illusion of weightlessness. Cunningham, although there are similar goals in the technical aspects of the leg work, the back work on top of it is something that most ballet dancers are not all that familiar with. Most ballet companies do contemporary work now. I mean, you have to—I don't care what company it is. You're doing some contemporary work, and if it's not necessarily modern dance they have to move their spine. But the way that the Cunningham technique is—the spine is often moving in complete opposition to the leg work. That is something that's just not familiar. It's not in their training. And the grounded use of the pli and the big fourth positions, and that use of weight that makes it modern dance, is also the antithesis of their training. It's not what they do. You don't want a woman in pointe shoes looking heavy and weighted in her movement. Ultimately, I feel like a great dancer is a great dancer, and if you're a great dancer in a ballet company, you can do most anything. If you're even a really great modern dancer—yeah, you may not have the typical body type of a ballet dancer, but you can take a ballet class and look spectacular. Ballet companies generally have a different aesthetic. They work in a different way. So can they do Cunningham works? Yes. Will they be open to the experience and open to maybe changing their ideas about things? That's up to the individual. I think even within a company, some people will be open, some people won't. So you're not dealing with a group of people trained and there for the purpose of doing this specific work. Sometimes there's a resistance. Sometimes people are completely open. I set Cross Currents on two contemporary ballet companies, and the people I worked with were fantastic.
You can almost always find a few people in a company who are wide open.
Yeah. They were fantastic. Do they do Cunningham works every day? No. So does it look exactly the same? No. But you can see it, and I think that they had a beautiful experience with it and I, in both situations, had a fantastic time sharing this work with other people. The work is still being seen, and I think that's positive. Even if it doesn't look quite the same.
How does it feel dancing now? When you step out onstage, do you have that sense like, God, I only have so many shows left?
You know, for me, most of the time when I'm going to perform I feel like, this is it, there aren't that many more—just do it. Maybe there's a little bit more of a sense of freedom. Like there's nothing left to prove: You make a mistake? Life goes on. There's freedom in [the idea to] just go for it. It's almost over. Enjoy it. That's how I've been feeling, generally. Mind you, there are a few pieces that we've reconstructed recently, so you're like, Okay, now I'm onstage doing something I've never done before, and I'm nervous! So, there's that, too, but generally speaking, what have you got to lose? Go for it.
What are you looking forward to in the next few months?
I'm looking forward to performing and savoring that definitely. I have been very up and down emotionally with things coming to an end. Some days I'm thrilled to death. [Laughs] Some days I have an identity crisis. I've been doing this for 12 years. It's very exciting to be able to plan a little bit, have closure and just to open your eyes and say, Oh okay, yeah—there's a whole world out there and my day doesn't have to be just doing this. Maybe I can still be a part of this in some way, but also experience other things, which is very exciting. I think it will be hard waking up when it's over and saying, "I don't have to go to class today. Do I want to take a class? I don't have to go to rehearsal. What would I like to do today?" I mean, I've been dancing nearly every day of my life since I was four years old.
How old are you?
35. So I don't know how I'm going to feel.
Would you consider going to college?
I have thought about it. I have my bachelor's already. Most universities want you to have your master's degree, but the thought of going back to school to study dance to get a master's is like, ugh. I looked into other programs. I also have an interest in costume and fashion design, so I've already taken a few classes at FIT, and I definitely plan to keep doing that. I have to see whether I want to actually commit to going into a program, but I plan on trying to see what my options are given that I already have a bachelor's in another area. And I'm excited about that.
When did you start designing costumes? Did you always sew?
My mother is fantastic. She made a lot of clothes for me when I was a preteen. Children's clothes have changed a lot, but I was so small at 14. I didn't fit into women's clothing, but I didn't want to wear things with ruffles all over them. So she started making a few things for me for special occasions, and I asked her—I think I was 16 or something—if she would teach me how to sew because I said, "I know if I want to be a dancer, I am probably not going to make that much money, and I really like fashion, so I would like to be able to make my own clothes if I want." It was a very practical decision. [Laughs] So of course I picked this difficult outfit, working with chiffon—why my mother even let me try something like that, I have no idea. But that was the beginning, and she bought me a sewing machine when I graduated from Purchase. I have been avidly sewing all while I've been in New York.
Who have you designed costumes for?
The first was when Cdric Andrieux was working with RoseAnne Spradlin. He came in one day and said, "You know, RoseAnne doesn't know what to do with these costumes, and I saw the thing that you had made, and she showed me a picture of this dress she wanted, and I don't know, do you think you could do something like this?" I looked at it and I was like, "Well, Cdric, it's like a tube dress with some trim. I can do that. It's not really an issue." And he said, "Well, you should call her." I was really nervous because I was just basically self-taught. She said that she just needed two dresses, which didn't seem like that much. But I had never actually made anything for anyone other than myself. So I called my mother and said, "Do you think I can do it? I'm really nervous." And she said, "Well, I've been watching Project Runway, and I'm gonna tell you right now, I know the kind of work that you do and I see this show and don't even think twice about it." So I was like, Okay! I sort of made a leap for it, and that was a really great experience working for her. And then I did some costumes for Tere O'Connor and worked with RoseAnne again.
You could audition for Project Runway.
No, no, no, no, no. [Laughs] That's not really my thing.
When you talk about having more freedom now as a dancer within the confines of the work, how do you approach that? How much freedom do you give yourself? Do you see other people breaking out in that way?
I think it's more freedom in the sense of, I am here and I'm dancing because I made a very clear and conscious decision to be here through the Legacy Tour. I am not looking for Merce's approval or a great review. I stayed because I want to. It's a privilege to be able to show the work after having had so much experience, and I'm doing it because I want to be here. I didn't always have that perspective. I didn't always have that perspective when Merce was alive. It was, Okay, I'm dancing, but does he think I'm doing a good job? Or, I think at a certain point very early in the career it's like, Did some reviewer like me? Did my name get mentioned in that? But with experience, especially now, those things really do not matter, and I'm happy that I'm still able to do it. That physically I don't have—knock on some wood—any major injuries or like huge body ailments that keep me in pain all the time. I feel privileged that I had such a long career. It's that freedom of just doing it for yourself.