Julie Cunningham

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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.

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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.