Julie Cunningham

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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.

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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.