Julie Cunningham

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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.

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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.