Melissa Toogood



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What are you dancing at the Armory?
He asked us to pick one thing. A lot of people put in many requests, but I asked for the Torse trio.

Because...I don't know. It's stupid. It's so hard. As Robert says, "It's the real deal." It's hard-core Cunningham. And that piece, my first week as a RUG, Robert did a workshop, and we did the whole third section of Torse. He gave me Robert Kovich's part, which is basically a solo for Robert—it's a decent chunk of the dance, and then you do it all again with everybody. And I remember after that week I was like, Oh my God. If it's gonna be like this, I don't know if I want this job! We learned the Torse trio after that. I don't know, I think that also initiated me in the work, and it's something that I worked with Merce on a lot. He changed certain things for me, and I like dancing with the boys that I'm dancing with.

Who are you dancing with?
John [Hinrichs] and Daniel. I think that's why I asked for that. I didn't really feel the need to ask for a solo. [Shrugs] I don't know.

You mentioned before that you want to keep dancing, but do you have future plans?
I definitely want to keep dancing. I would like to be in a full-time company, but it's not all up to me. [Laughs] I've been working with Rashaun and Silas [Riener]; we plan on finishing Rashaun's piece, which we showed at St. Mark's this year. Robert wants to keep doing some things, so if I'm in New York, I would definitely want to still do Merce's work when I can. Pam [Tanowitz] asked me to do a piece, which I'm excited about because I love working with her. I don't know. I'm open to moving anywhere; so is my husband, actually. He's an artist. He's been doing the drawings in the New York Times [Kenneth E. Parris III].

They're great! I didn't realize he was your husband.
Yes. And he can ideally work from anywhere.

Do you have anything in mind?
I really like Lyon Opra Ballet. We'll see. I don't know. I don't do pointe anymore, and apparently that's a new prerequisite.

Is it really?
Yeah. I don't know why. There are so many dancers in that company.... They're commissioning more Cunningham works, and I did some of Maguy Marin's work at Jacob's Pillow. I like their repertory. There's a range and physicality I think I'd really like.

What has this period of time been like for you? Especially as it's winding down?
I wanted to focus on doing this job well. And any project that's come to me, I felt like I had to say yes to just because you're worried about next year; if I had said no to Rashaun, I wouldn't be working on his show next year. I probably should have taken some more time to rest, but when I do that, I fall apart emotionally. Three days without dancing, I go crazy, so it's probably better to just keep going. I've been teaching a lot more at the studio. Actually, Merce put me on faculty before I joined the company. It really stressed me out when Robert told me he wanted me to start teaching. I was like, "Nooo! I don't want him to see me as a teacher!" Because I'd seen that happen to other people, and he was like, "No, you don't understand." I think it was a way to give me a new challenge, because he knew there wasn't room for me in the company yet.

But he wanted to keep you around?
Yeah, and they did want to train a new teacher, and Merce picked me. But it did stress me out, especially because when I was growing up my dance teachers were the people I looked up to. It's really a huge responsibility, and I take it very seriously. Everyone thinks I'm funny because I plan my class so far in advance, but I know it's important. I didn't think that I would love it as much as I do. I prefer teaching repertoire to technique class. I always have. Even in college I was often put in rehearsal assistant roles. I was constantly kind of pushed in that direction. Some of my teachers in college warned me not to get pushed there too soon because they thought I should have a career performing. But I keep getting drawn to it, and Robert's had me help him with workshops, so I think I definitely want to try and pursue that direction later.

Will you still teach the technique?
Hopefully, depending on how much I'm performing. I had a really good talk with Patricia Lent a couple months ago because I was like, "Is this something I need to be fighting for because everyone is gonna be out of work?" And she's like, "No. If in years to come the work is still surviving, the opportunities will be open to you then. So if you want to focus on performing, you don't have to worry about trying to push for it all right now." That was good for me to hear.

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