Krista Nelson

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Did you go to the studio that day?
Yeah. I brought a geranium from my garden and I remember I saw Stacy [Martorana] on the corner. She's one of the understudies. I remember seeing you there. When we did the bounces, it was amazing. I had cried a lot that day and by the time I got there I was feeling cried out, but when we did the balances, as my head went down it was tears and you could just feel it from everyone in the room. I'm really glad we did that. And also I think that's when it really hit me fully that he wasn't going to be there for us to experience ever again—whether we're balancing or doing Nearly Ninety or whatever. It will not feel the same and it really doesn't feel the same without Merce. He had such charisma and energy. He was irreplaceable.

Even aging.
Yes. He was in a wheelchair. I always felt like I could give everything because he was there, every time. And working with him, he continually pushed us to do things we never thought we could do, and then you'd look back and realize you accomplished something that seemed impossible. It makes sense that he excited the room. He really inspired everybody.

Has it been hard for you to find that inspiration during this tour?
No, it's just different. I think Robert's done a really great job of leaving us space to find our own inspiration and paths and entries into things. Merce was so good about allowing you your own process of entry and Robert studied that consciously and really tries to make sure he doesn't over-coach or over-conceptualize things for us, and I am so happy for that.

What are you planning on doing when this is over?
I would like to continue dancing. I don't know how because I would also definitely like to go back to school. At this point, I don't have any full-time job offers for dancing and I think that might not be realistic for me right now; I'll probably be doing projects or pickup work and I think that I can fit that in with school. So I would like to try to have both things.

Can you think of any choreographers you would want to work with?
I haven't been going to shows. This tour has been so intense for me. I feel like I cannot go to see shows. I'm so tired when we're home; I just want to see Nic and enjoy my house. I moved in the spring and I feel like my neighbors think I'm crazy because I come home with suitcases and then I go shopping for stuff and I'll bring it home and then I'm gone for weeks.

What do you want to study?
Psychology. I'm also really interested in the brain so I'm hoping to find some connection whether it's neuropsychology or biopsychology I'm not sure exactly.

Who do you dance for now that Merce isn't in the front of the room?
It's a combination of myself and the other company members and the audience. I used to think of dancing for Merce, but I don't really think of him so much anymore. I think that happens when time passes. What's been really interesting for me is finding a balance of holding to my values as a dancer, energetically or in terms of the performance quality, and then also meeting the expectations of the company and Robert and the audience and the play among those things. It is sometimes really difficult to figure out—and probably impossible to ever really figure out. That has been a long, interesting process.

And if you could dance in any era of Merce's company other than now?
I can't pick now? [Laughs] I've done so many dances and especially in the last group of understudies—since Melissa—we have been able to do so many parts that used to be coveted and treasured and you didn't do it unless you were the prima in the company. So the fact that I got to do the Signals solo—that would have been completely unacceptable in the past! I guess if you make me pick some other time, I would say working with Merce at the beginning, because the dancers were more intimate with Merce and I would have liked to have known him. And John Cage, too! I just hear that John was so inspirational and positive and funny and smart and brought his interests in all these other things to the group and driving around in a bus. It just seems like it was really exciting. But hard and hellish. I was just thinking of those pictures where they're so tired. But they looked so beautiful, too. They were so innocent.

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