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Julie Cunningham

Photograph: Anna Finke

Did you start dancing in Liverpool?
Yeah. I've been in New York almost nine years and I moved to London when I was 16, so my accent's very strange. I think I started when I was six or seven in ballet at a little, a local school. And then my family moved around a couple times—so I went to a different school and then I stayed at the same ballet school for five or six years.

Who was your teacher?
Her name was Elizabeth Hill. She was a really good teacher. I don't know if you know RAD—the Royal Academy of Dance. That's how I trained. It was very methodical.

And you took tests?
Yeah, we had exams. I had a million exams.

Did you want to be a ballet dancer in a professional company?

I think so. I just really liked it, and my body liked it. I ended up doing modern and jazz and tap and stuff like that, too. I was really terrible at tap because my feet are so bendy. In tap, you have to be really relaxed, and I was always holding my feet really tight, so I couldn't do it. I was also turned out all the time; my teachers were like, oh my God, you need to be in parallel. That was hard for me. But I think that tap really helped me for dancing with Merce. 

Because of the rhythms?
Yes. Because it's so rhythmical, and I feel like Merce uses a lot of, not tap, but I can tell that that's what he did in the beginning. It just helped me with the whole counting thing and not having music to dance to. Having the ability to have an internal sense of rhythm is really important. 

Did you have that anyway?
Probably. I think I'm a little obsessive-compulsive because I count everything, and I don't know if I always did that or if it is because of dancing for Merce, but there's just continual counting going on in my head. Which is annoying at times. 

Why did you move to London at 16?
Because I wanted to go to a full-time training school. So I went to a ballet school in London, which was a horrendous experience. It was called Central School of Ballet. I think that I felt so mature, you know, like, Oh I'm ready to; I want to move away from home; I'm so grown up—and I really wasn't. Living in London by yourself when you're 16 is a little too overwhelming, and it was not a very supporting environment, so I feel it set me up for a lot of bad things later on. It was a difficult year, and then I decided to audition for Rambert School [of Ballet and Contemporary Dance] and then I ended up going there. And at that school, it was very strongly classical, but also strongly modern dance, as well. And they were both treated equally, so I feel I got more in both of those things. Which was kind of actually more interesting to have both of them. I feel they were able to complement each other. 

The Rambert company has Cunningham in its repertoire. Is that where you first saw the work? 

Actually, yeah. I saw Rambert do Beach Birds. That was probably the first thing I saw. And then a lot of [Rambert] dancers would come to teach us at the school, and they did some Cunninghamesque stuff. Probably what they learned from Robert [Swinston]. So through getting introduced to it that way, it seemed to make sense to me in the way that it was really closely related to ballet as a modern technique because it's very physical and you have to have a strong technique to do it. So I was really interested in that when I learned it, and the fact that it was a modern dance technique and it wasn't quite the ballet thing....

But you weren't doing interpretive dance. 
Yeah. It wasn't floppy or roll on the floor. Then while I was at the Rambert School, I did a summer program in Germany and Denise Jefferson from the Ailey School was teaching, so I took her class and another woman's, Susan Alexander. She worked at the conservatory in Paris and I think she spent some time at the Cunningham Studio because she taught a kind of Cunningham class. So I was taking both of their classes and I was taking ballet with this guy from Paris Opra and it was really cool. Anyway, at the end of the two weeks, Denise Jefferson offered my friend and me a scholarship to come to the Ailey Summer Intensive for the next year. So that's sort of how I ended up coming to New York. That was in 2001. 


Can we back up a little bit? When you were in London at 16, did you live in dorms or what? 
I lived in a hostel. A YWCA. There were other girls from the school who lived there, but it was pretty depressing. 

And then when you went to Rambert was it a similar situation? What was life there like for you?
Well, Rambert was part of a university, so the first year, I lived in dorms on the campus. It was just a different environment. School was, like, ten steps away. It just felt more integrated. 

When did you know you wanted to dance professionally?
I think I was probably 12 or 13. I just really liked it, and there was a lot of horrible stuff going on in my family life and I just felt dance was the thing that I really connected to—and, you know, it was my thing. So I was taken by that and, This is what I'm gonna do! This is me. 

Were you parents supportive?
Not really. My dad wasn't really around much and my mom—I think she liked the idea that I was dancing, but she would tell me to get a real job. That kind of thing. She wasn't too enthused because she was like, "How are you going to be a dancer?" So it was all me, and that just made me even more determined. 

What did you study at Ailey? What did Denise Jefferson teach? 
She was teaching Graham. We did a little Graham at Rambert. I don't really like the Graham technique for myself. It's very strong and muscular; it's just the whole angsty thing—it didn't feel genuine when I did it. Or I never reached that point that it came from within me. It was just always like, Now I have to look up to the sky. But I spent the whole summer here after I graduated from Rambert, and I was taking classes at Ailey in the day and then Cunningham. That's when I first went to the studio. It was great; I was really excited. And then I took a workshop with Trish Lent and she taught Fabrications , so that was my first experience with the rep. And at the end of the week, Robert came up to me after and said, "You look really good in this work" and "Keep in touch with us." It was really cool. 

That must have been such a different vibe than at Ailey. 
Yeah. I started full force at Ailey and then started to drift off. I was like, I'm not really fitting in here. And I really hated Horton—my body just doesn't do those things. You had to be really muscley and strong to do it. And a lot of parallel—not that Merce doesn't have parallel stuff, but it's just different somehow. I wasn't really into it. 

And there weren't a lot of choices about what else to take?
No. It was Horton, Graham, ballet. And the Graham—the teacher was Peter London. He's such an asshole. It was not very fun. I didn't really get into that. So I just started to slack off at Ailey. After that, I went back to England. So I was like, Okay, I guess I'd better audition for everything. Always with the Cunningham thing in the corner of my mind. So I did a ton of auditions in Europe. It was awful. I think auditions are just so demoralizing. It's just an awful experience, like a cattle market kind of thing. I just wasn't really in it. There was no company that I really wanted except for the Merce voice in my head. So I kept going to all these auditions and being like, I'm not really into it; this person's work isn't exciting to me. I'm not really interested, but I need a job. I was auditioning for ballet companies and really independent contemporary-contemporary projects. So a whole range of stuff, but I didn't really feel like I fit in anywhere. So it was a pretty dismal year. The Cunningham company—because they tour a lot in Europe—I just wrote to Robert and was like, "Can I come and take class with you guys in Paris?" And he was like, "Yeah." So I went and took Merce's class and it was really cool. I did it again in Dublin. By that time, they were like, "Oh, you're that girl who turns up everywhere." So that was pretty much a year. And then I came to New York again the next summer and took classes. Actually just before I came to New York that summer, the new artistic director of Rambert offered me a job. Mark Baldwin. He called me and was like, "I really want you to work with me. I'm taking over Rambert." So I was pretty excited about that. And then he took over, realized that he couldn't make those kind of decisions and then was like, "Actually I can't really..." 

Are you serious? 
Yeah. That happened when I was in New York. He offered it to me before I came and I was here. But at the same time I got this other job in Germany with a ballet company. 

What was it called?
Ballet de Stadt Theater Koblenz. It's in between Cologne and Frankfurt. So it was pretty low-key, a small company. They tried to get in touch with me while I was in New York and were like, "We need a dancer, are you available? When can you be here?" A couple of weeks later I went there and I danced with that company for the next six months. I was doing Sleeping Beauty . I got to do two of the fairies. That was fun. I mean I got to dance a lot and learn things quickly and be thrown onstage, and I liked that. I had to get used to the pointe shoe thing again because I'd sort of given it up for a minute. And then we also danced in the operas; that was fun too. So it was really good. I just got to dance and not worry and get paid. It was great. 

But you were only there for six months?
Yeah, because it was a guest contract. I was looking at what the Cunningham company was doing and they were going to be in France just outside of Paris. So I called Robert and was just like, "Hey, it's Julie again. Can I come and take class with you guys?" And he's like, "Actually we need a female understudy—would you be interested?" And I was like, "Uh, yes . So it's was pretty much two weeks later I moved to New York with a suitcase and that was it. 

Where did you stay?
I stayed with a friend from Rambert School for a week and then I stayed somewhere else for two weeks until I found a place. 

It's kind of like you were such a nomad. How could you afford to follow the company?
I was teaching at my ballet school in Liverpool. I was in London too. I didn't really have a home. Yeah, it was really horrible. [ Laughs ] But it was also fun. 

So you moved to New York in 2003. What were you working on as a RUG?
Merce was starting Split Sides . So that was like, Whoa. That was really cool because we got to work with him on most of that. The group at the time was Rashaun [Mitchell], Andrea [Weber] and Marcie [Munnerlyn] and two other understudies who are not in the company. It was a really fun group. We got to work with Merce every day. 

What were those days like?
They were really hard. [ Laughs ] But for some reason it was just so fun. I just remember spending a lot of time with the RUGs. Sometimes we would also work with Robert for part of the day because we were reviving Rune , so we'd work on that for a little part and then we'd work with Merce. 

What do you remember about what he made for you in Split Sides?

He didn't really make individual stuff for us, it was more like we all did the phrase together. He didn't really break it up and play with it at that point. It was just like the phrase and then we had to teach it to the company, which was very scary because they were not very happy with the situation. 

Right. So I've heard.
Yeah, I mean it makes sense. You've been there for years and then this new person is trying to tell me how to do this. 

Were you a good teacher, do you think?
I don't know. I mean I taught a lot to children and to adolescents, so I sort of knew how to deliver information in that way. At that time, because I had just arrived, the company would make fun of me for my accent. They would laugh at me in an endearing way. 

So Cunningham was teaching you phrases. Can you tell me anything about the process?
It was just such a brain fuck. Because of all the counts. I feel for that time period, the count thing was really intense. And we did this phrase called "popcorn," which was actually the first phrase that he started to teach us. It was counted like: 1, 2, 3, four . 1, 2, 3, one . 1, 2, 3, 4, five . 1, two . 1, 2, 3, four . 1, 2, 3, 4, five . 1, 2, 3, 4, five . 1. 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, six . 1, 2, three . No little thing was the same as the one before so you just had to know it. But we did it so slowly, like we would do one thing and then do it over and over again and then add one more and then do that. So it wasn't like you couldn't really remember it; but it was just amazing. How the hell is he doing it? And then when it came for us to teach it to the company, and we were doing these counts, the company was [ Sighs ], "Are you kidding me? Why are you counting like this?" And apparently Robert went over to Merce, and Merce said to him, "Oh, the RUGs must have made up those counts up. It wasn't me." He blamed it on us! We were like, "You really think that we would make that up? That was pretty funny. We still laugh about that. 

Why is it called the popcorn phrase?
I think that the company made that name up at the time. I think just because it's very jumpy and you hold and then it's kind of explosive. It's a fun phrase. We would write down notes at the end of the day. It was also maybe the first time that I'd seen anything where we would do torso to the right, but head to the left. So there would be even a separation of the torso and the head, so it'd be "twist left, but turn the head right" or "twist right, but curve the head." And then there was "arch the back and curve the head." There were a lot of strange-looking shapes we were trying to make sure we got. So we took notes, and it's probably good that we did that because now teaching the piece to the new people—for us who learned originally, it's so in our bodies and not in our brains. We'll just do the shape and then the new dancer will copy what we're doing and they'll be like, "What are you doing?" So we can look. 

Did you do that with every step?
Yeah. We sort of felt responsible for getting the correct information across. It had to go through us and then to the company. 

Would Merce be there watching you teach it? How did you feel about that? 

Yeah. I always felt that just knowing he was watching me made me work harder than you could ever imagine. I feel I'm pretty good at pushing myself as far as I can, but I feel with Merce there it was further than you thought that you could go. You just try it, just do it. It was definitely really hard without him around to get there. Like in class. The only reason I could get through his class was because he was right there staring. It was really hard. It was more a test of will than technical elements. 

Tell me everything about his class.
Well it was definitely difficult to figure out what he was doing because he couldn't really move anymore. But after a while it was as if he had a key to each movement, if that makes sense—if he turned his head, you were like, Okay that means twist. And even though he couldn't really move his legs, if he put his foot to the side and was shaking it around, you knew it was a rond de jambe . So I think that you just had to really look closely at the subtle movements that he was doing to translate it to what he meant and then he would tell you if it wasn't right. It was also very extreme—really, really slow leg extensions that you just wanted to die, but you just did it anyway because that's what he wanted. 

You wouldn't give up in front of him. 
No! [ Laughs ] Never. You would grip everything you've got to do it. I got really strong. It was very mentally tough. I felt there was a lot of stress that just dissipated when Merce died. Like something was lifted from my shoulders, which was kind of sad. I mean, I'm really sad that he's not here, but it was like, Oh my God. It just felt a lot lighter. 

Because you didn't have to please him?
Maybe. Because I always felt that everything we did was for Merce; there was a focus. Everything we did in the room was for him. Everyone was so intent on that goal that it was sort of like everything just... 

Opened up?
Yeah. For good or bad, whatever. I don't know. 

When did you join that company? How did you find out you got in?
It was just over a year later and I heard that Derry [Swan] was going to be leaving and we were all really tense—nobody, when you're an understudy, tells you anything or communicates. I'm like, Hi! Can someone just break the tension? Please? And then the company went away on tour and I was like, Oh my God—why didn't they just tell us what's going to happen? This is awful. They were in Norway or something. So we were working with Merce alone and then we had a break and I was just on a roller at the side and Merce just called me over and was like, "Just come here a minute. Next week when the company comes back, you're going to be learning Derry's parts." I was just, [ She mouths, "Thank you" ]. But he could never really be direct, I guess, and so that was his way of telling. 

And you knew that meant you were in the company.
Yeah. And then so I was just so shocked, but I was like, "Thank you." And he just smiled and nodded. 

That's so great that he was the one that told you.
I know. 

Because normally it's Robert.

Yeah, like [ She mimics Swinston's dry tone ]: "You're in the company." So it was cool. It was a really nice. And then we had to continue with the rehearsal and I was just like, "Eeee!" 

Did you tell everyone?
No, because there was another woman who could have been taken in too so I didn't say anything, but then at the end of the day Merce just told everyone. It was good, but it was a strange moment. 

It's strange when you're with a group of people and you're working so closely and you're competing as well. 
Yes, it was hard. And then I had to learn 11 or 12 dances in three weeks. I almost lost my mind. I cried a lot. It's a lot of pressure. And then so I learned some stuff with Jeannie Steele and then some stuff with Derry by myself in the studio and then the company would come in and they were like, "Okay, go in with the rest of the group and do it." And this was so terrifying. I had to dance with Cdric for a lot of stuff, and he was so scary to me. 

Was he?
Yeah. I mean later I got to know him and he was a great guy, but I remember in the beginning he was not happy to have someone there instead of Derry. 

He missed her.
Yeah, I think so. I think it was kind of a little transition moment. He was not very accepting. But I think Jennifer [Goggans] took him aside and was like, " Listen , you'd better be nice." [ Laughs ] She's pretty good at setting people straight. So then it got easier, but it was a scary experience coming in. I think for everyone it's pretty overwhelming. 

Because you're learning the parts, but you're not in the middle of the dance.
Yeah. And then you can't mess up because you'll mess someone else up. And then everyone's giving you corrections—"You need to be here," and then someone else is like, "No, you need to be here." And it's like an inch. When you're the new person everything that goes wrong is your fault for a while. But I was so happy to be in the company. 

Who was supportive of you within that group?

I think Jen was a good friend at the beginning. And then I got along well with Daniel Squire as well. I got to partner him for quite a while. 

What dances were meaningful?
I think that BIPED was particularly meaningful because it was the first piece that I saw the actual Cunningham company do in London. I think it was in 1999 or 2000 at Barbican and I just so vividly remembered some of the movement from when I watched it, so that going into and being able to dance it with the company was very surreal. It was a meaningful thing for me to have gone from watching it as a student to actually being in the company. And it just feels so good to do. It's a challenge, but when you get through it, you feel like you achieved something. I got through something difficult. And that was probably my favorite piece. And then Split Sides is also great because I got to do it from the beginning. When I joined, we did Fabrications , and that was cool too because that was the workshop that I did initially with Trish, and I just really like the movement from that time period because it just feels so much freer. Then while I was in the company, I did a duet with Daniel Squire in eyeSpace . It was at the end of the dance. And we worked on that for a year with Merce, so at the end of the day, for the last half hour we'd just go in and work on him with it. 

Tell me about that.

It took a really long time. So the whole thing was counted like one-and-two-and-three-and-one-and-two-and-three—the whole way through. And for every count and beat in between, there was something that was a movement, so usually we'd step on one and then "and-two-and-three-and" would be something else. So it was that the whole way through and it took a really long time to put together. Also Merce scrapped a bunch of it and started again. And part of it we started a third time, so he was working through a lot of stuff and layering it together and then to make it a duet where we actually danced with each other and around each other to make it fit together.... It was so intricate that you couldn't mess up one little "and" because you'd mess each other up. Or hit each other in the face as it happened at one performance. 

Where?
Laughs ] We were in France. We'd just started the duet and there's one point where I bend forward and Daniel's over and he maybe was just one beat off and came off and hit me in the face—in the lip and my lip started bleeding. It was right in the beginning, and I was so mad. And Daniel was like, "Are you okay?" And I was like, "No!" I was so mad. And you know when someone hits you in the face and you get tears running down your face? I was like, Do I have blood running down my face now? I couldn't really tell so we just continued. And after he was like, "I'm so sorry!" I had ice on my lip all day. It shows how you just cannot be off even a little bit for that. I learned a lot. And XOVER was really cool too because I had a lot to do in it. There was this slow duet that I got to do with Daniel Madoff, and it's my favorite kind of movement to do—slow, continuous, to figure out how to get from one thing to the other and make it really smooth so there's no bumpy, jagged edges. I could do that forever. Just figure those things out. And then also it was at an interesting time personally in my life that I got to do that. It felt like it was something I connected to. Which I can go into or not. 

I would love to know what you mean. 
Okay. So at the beginning of that year I was hospitalized because I had anorexia. It was pretty traumatic. Sort of the end of the year before, I had been going downhill and I met with Robert and Trevor and they were like, "You know you really need to get well because it's not good to be dancing while you're that thin." So I had to go into treatment for that and I just was like, Am I gonna dance again? Am I gonna get through this? And I didn't have an idea of how bad things were. 

Isn't that common? 
Yeah. I mean that's part of the illness anyway—to not really realize how bad it is. So they persuaded me to do it and were like, "We want you to come back and be healthy." And then I went over to talk to Merce, and I was just so surprised because he was like crying. And he just held my hand and was like, "I really want you to dance. I want you to come back and be better. And just be strong and just do whatever they say. I want you to come back. But don't worry about this, don't think about dance, just think about yourself. Just really, I want you to come back here and be happy." So with that, I just felt like, Okay, I can do it. So I was in the hospital for a little while and then I did an outpatient thing and didn't dance for a couple of months at all. And then I started taking class again and slowly got back into it and went back into the company in probably April or something. And then Merce was starting to work on XOVER , so that got me back into it. 

Were you able to handle going back into dance? Did you fall into old habits?
Well, I definitely think that it's really tricky to be a dancer and to be on the edge of that. Because there's just an extremely fine line between being a dancer—the size that is acceptable. Being healthy and being not healthy. It's that big. [ She holds her hands together, showing about a quarter of an inch between her palms. ] So I think for me feeling better about things is when I'm not worrying about it anymore. I'm not stressing about what I eat or how I look or that kind of thing. Which is hard when you have to be in a unitard onstage, you know? 

I know. That's what I'm thinking. 
Laughs ] So I think it's probably in there, but I have better coping skills now to deal with it because I know that's a line I don't want to cross because it's something else and it's not sustainable or good for me. And I think since I've stopped dancing, it's so much better. 

Is it?
Yeah. I feel a lot of stress that was there has gone. 

When did you leave exactly?
Well, officially it was March this year, but I didn't dance this year at all. I got injured a couple of times. Actually, I had some pretty annoying injuries. I tore something in my hip at Nearly Ninety at BAM, in the last show. 

I was there.

In the matinee? Yeah, I turned and felt this rip in my hip and then I was kind of dragging my leg behind me the whole time. So I ended up having surgery too, because I had torn the cartilage around the hip socket so I had to have surgery to take that little bit of cartilage away and smooth it out so it wasn't catching every time I walked. 

Jesus. 

Laughs ] Yeah. So that was the summer when Merce died. I wasn't dancing with the company at Jacob's Pillow and they streamed the show to Merce's house, so I went over and watched the show with him. We had dinner and talked a little. 

You were really close.

I don't know if necessarily were close, but I didn't feel uncomfortable around him. I just felt he would talk or I would talk and it wasn't weird. So we watched that show and that was the last time that I saw him. Because he passed away a couple of days later. 

What did you talk about?
We just talked about the dance mostly, because the first piece on the show was CRWDSPCR and it finished and I was like, "Oh, Merce, that's such a complicated piece." And he was just like, "Yeah, I know" and kind of laughed. Like, yeah, I made this really awful complicated piece for everyone to do. So we just talked about that and we had some ice cream, and it was really good. So it was sort of nothing heavy, just hanging out. And then at the end, I was about to leave and he was like, "I miss you up there. I want to see you back dancing." 

What happened in terms of your injuries? When did you start back? 

The first thing I did actually was the memorial and then I went on tour after that. Then I got injured again. It was Nearly Ninety again, and we were in Spain at the time and I just stepped on relev and my foot collapsed. I tore the ligaments in the middle of my foot. So I had to go to the ER in Spain and get an X-ray, and they gave me crutches and I was on crutches five more days. I couldn't do anything. We were in a hotel on the highway and it was sad. So then we came back and I had an MRI and it was a really horrible sprain. They said, "If you had torn one more ligament, we would be putting pins in you." But because that one ligament held it together, it was like, "We'll just leave it to heal," like to clump together. But then I had be in a boot and on crutches for six weeks; and in the boot for another couple of weeks. That was summer. I started to get back and then I got back to the company for Fall for Dance for XOVER . So I did that; I wasn't quite there yet, but I managed to do that, and then we went to London and we did Nearly Ninety . 

The dreaded words. I'm so scared to hear what you're going to say next. 
Laughs ] So we did Nearly Ninety and it was fine, whatever. And then we traveled to Paris; we did the dress rehearsal of Pond Way and my back just went into spasms. Couldn't move. I was just laying on my back for like a week, and they said, "Do you want to just go home, do PT and get better instead of being in somewhere in France and feeling terrible?" So I ended up just coming back to New York and doing PT. Trying to rehab. And I just felt it was taking me so long to get better and I was, I don't know if I can do this. Because I just felt I'm going get hurt again. I'm just gonna rehab, come back and get hurt. [Pauses] And so in the early spring, Robert and Trevor and I just met. They're like, "Well, we need you to be back by April so you need to be able to do full class" and at that point I couldn't because every time I would try, my back would go into spasms. So I was like, This is a sign that I just need to take as much time as I need. Because I always pushed myself to get back after each injury with maybe not enough time so I felt I really needed to give myself enough time to feel completely better, which, sadly, meant that I wouldn't do the rest of the tour. 

Do you think that injuries are linked to emotions?

Oh yeah. Totally. 

Was your body trying to tell you something the whole time?

Yeah. It was saying, "Stop." I felt that inside of me. It wasn't right. 

Was it because he wasn't there?

Maybe it made me more aware of how I felt. I think if Merce had been there, I wouldn't have taken notice of how I felt. But because he wasn't there, I was able to listen to myself. I always enjoyed dancing; but there was so much anxiety in it because of injuries and not knowing if tomorrow I can do my job, am I going to be off dance? It's just such a bad feeling and then everything just becomes about that. So focused on what my body's able to do—and to be to the rest of the company like, "I don't know if I can do this today. Who's gonna do it?" Because then it puts a lot of stress on the rest of the company because they have to pick up the slack. So I think a lot of this talk about not feeling quite right was about not feeling on top of my body. 

Are you dancing now? 
I haven't danced at all since I stopped. In the last month, I've been working with Trish Lent because she's teaching Duets to ABT, so I just was like, "Do you want me to help you? Or do you want an assistant?" And she was like, "Okay, you can come by and we'll see how that goes." So I've been working with them and dancing around. It's really fun. I mean, I didn't think I could do anything at all. I was kind of afraid of moving around, but then I was like, Oh--everything just falls back into place. And without the tension you know? I feel I'm just flopping around and it's been really fun actually to work with them because they've been really open to take on something different. So it's been a really good experience. And then Trish was like, "Julie, you need to teach at the studio, you need to do that." So actually last night I taught for the first time. 

How did it go?

It was really nice. And I had Duets in my head so I taught some phrases, and it was fun to see how modern dancers approach the movement and then to see how ballet dancers approach it. 

Would it ever come up that you could stage something?

Maybe. I mean that's sort of why I wanted to help Trish because I wanted to learn about the process of staging a piece. I wanted to see how you go about that. We'll see. 

But you're staying in New York.

Yeah. Well, I'm in school right now. I'm taking courses at CUNY, at Baruch College and at City College and I've been doing this undergrad program called LEAP that a lot of the dancers in New York are doing. So that's really helped me, I think, as well. Because I've been in LEAP for the last couple of years, so I've always been taking a class while I was performing and touring. I feel it's helped me to stay a little bit sane while I was away to have my textbook there. So now I'm just doing more. I'm full-time I guess. 

What are you studying?

Well, it's a liberal-arts degree and at CUNY I'm taking science as well, so I'm doing premedical sciences. Maybe that's somewhere I might go. It's very different, but there are also a lot of similarities. In biology there are things that I'm learning about the body that are really interesting from what I've been through—like injuries and illness. It's just fun to learn what's really going on instead of the myth of what's going on. And then I took physics over the summer and it was just so cool—Merce has quoted a lot of the Einstein stuff and just the concepts that Merce used are so much more understandable to me. And then also knowing about movement helps me to visualize things in physics that are difficult to grasp. The whole time and space thing—I just got so excited in physics. Like time and space! I know that! I totally get that! That the dance exists in time and space and so does the music and that they happen at the same time. I really like learning. I love being in school because it feels like such a luxury to just be able to take in information. I'm so happy that program exists for, especially for the ballet dancers who definitely don't go to college at all. A number of the modern dancers have a BFA if they went to a conservatory or university program so I just think education is so great. Just to keep you aware of everything else that's going on in life because I feel like as a dancer you can become so insulated in your own little world, and to be able to connect with something bigger really helps you to be grounded. [ Laughs ] I'm all about education.

Comments

1 comments
Robben "Gwynn" Wainer
Robben "Gwynn" Wainer

I remember watching the hard bodies back in the days of performance, and how Van Damme made his way through kick boxing. There were less attraction to acrobats who danced as a livelihood, since we were still thought of as circus acts. I think to be breathe taking you must provide the stamina. Julie Cunningham has always proven she goes the distance on evenings of opening nights , to close with a finale that is inspired by her debuts.