Rashaun Mitchell



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You're not afraid of that.
No. And bringing a certain presence is always what I've been attracted to. I've always been more interested in his more animalistic pieces, so it worked for me to do his part in Crises . It was a successful showing of the piece. I think they weren't sure how it was going to be received—this was before I was even in the company. Whether Merce would like it, whether the piece would be good—no one else had ever done it. After that, it put me in that place of, "Okay, he can do Merce's parts," and it sort of snowballed. Merce did like me and did give me a lot of attention in the beginning. He always gave me good parts in the new pieces he made. I guess it was a natural thing for me to do the parts. So when I did Crises , I think his way of dealing with that and me being singled out was to not put me in eyeSpace , and at the time, I was upset because I wanted to be in the new piece. I want you to make something on me that is new. That's why I'm here. And I didn't understand the weight of doing a historic role; I wanted to be in the new piece, and I was sad that I was being punished for having been given an opportunity, sort of. And then someone talked me down and made me realize that I was being stupid. I think that was his way of saying, "Well, we're going to give you this, but we're not going to just give you everything and make everyone feel bad." We performed Crises a lot; once I got into the company, it was like, "Okay, let's do the piece now." So I don't think anyone really felt negatively or they didn't express that to me because they had already seen me do it as an understudy. It seemed natural. And I think I'm friendly with everyone, and I'm supportive of everyone. I'm not competitive. I love watching everyone. I learn from everyone. And I feel really positively toward everyone, for the most part.  So anyway, we performed Crises a lot in conjunction with eyeSpace . Then I didn't have any other of his roles until I think he died. Right before he died, he did cast me as himself in Square Game , but we weren't doing the whole piece, just sections of it. I think they already knew that they were going to revive Square Game before he died, and I probably would have been doing that anyway. But, yeah, it was after he died that we brought back a lot of the pieces that he's in. I never did Suite for Five , and I never wanted to. I don't feel like it's a part for me anyway. It's too pristine and kind of erect and princely or something.

It's like Apollo instead of the kind of spookier stuff that you can do, where you're, Is it scary or funny?
Exactly! [ Laughs ] What's going on? I saw Tom do Suite and I saw Cdric [Andrieux] and Ashley do Suite , and they did it so well. I mean Cdric did it amazingly. He just looked so big. He looked like a god. So it was never a part that I wanted. And I was okay with that. I don't have to do everything. And also it would be a disservice to the work and to me and to other people. It's nice to see other people do things. I do feel like it's too bad that Silas didn't get to do any of Merce's parts. I think that it would have been nice to have seen him in at least one thing.

Will he get the chance?

Really? Because this is set?
Oh yeah. It's one of those things about timing too, if the company was continuing and I was leaving—the natural progression of things. When I first started, I wasn't in a lot of the pieces. And then a couple of years later, someone left, and I got more parts and then after a while you're the senior person and you have a lot of parts, and that's the way it is. So for people that are new, it's sad a little bit because I don't think they'll ever get to grow in the work and sink their teeth into something. Robert tried to give everyone a moment, but it didn't spread completely fairly. The Merce parts are just now the Legacy Tour. It's weird sometimes. When I did Square Game , we did a studio showing of it. It was soon after he died, and I really felt so strange doing this piece because, unlike the other parts that he does, people are just sitting onstage watching and that's weird. I felt weird. I felt like I was removed and maybe it was just in my head, but I felt judged. I'm doing the solo and I realize the importance of it in some way, but I look around and I see these other people sitting there and that's not really fun for me. What are they thinking? And also, just the fact that it was Merce's part, I felt like I was really under a microscope. You know: Is he like Merce? Just all of the judgment. It was hard at first. I'm past that now but it was so soon after he died that it was really emotional for me to inhabit the role because of all those things. Now we just revived RainForest , and it's awesome. I'm so excited to perform it. It's my favorite piece.

I saw it before I was in the company at City Center. It's everything. And I'm such a huge fan of Andy Warhol so to have the fucking silver pillows? [ Gasps ] When I became an understudy, the company was doing it, so I got to see them rehearse it a lot. And Ashley fucking Chen was fucking brilliant. Just like this sexual demon. I remember always, always wanting to do it and then right before I got into the company, it left the rep. So I thought maybe by some chance it will come back and I'll get to do it. That was always one of the reasons that I stayed, the possibility of doing RainForest . And I remember when the whole talk of the revivals and what we were going to do came up and RainForest wasn't on the list. And I went to Robert and I said, "Robert, why aren't we doing RainForest ? We have to do RainForest ," and he was just like [ Mimics his sardonic tone. ], "Oh, oh yeah okay, well I'll try and see if we can do it." And we're doing it now. I'm really happy about it. It's a perfect, round way for me to go out.

During this tour, how did you feel going into it? How do you feel now? How do you survive not only the physical part, but the emotional part?
Well, it's funny because the whole idea of the tour is actually a myth because I'm here in New York a lot actually [ Laughs ] It's the same as it always has been in terms of the schedule and the touring. We're going to a few new places, but mostly we're going to the same places we always go to. They were really careful to build in rest time and rehearsal time for us. They didn't want us to break. So it's really the same in a lot of ways, but obviously it's not. I'm trying to be in the moment because I know that it's a special time and I'm going to remember this for the rest of my life. When I'm there, I'm there. It's weird because we're ticking off the cities and we're counting down, "Okay, we have seven more performances of this piece, three more of this," and every city we say goodbye to. Every time we have a curtain call, it is emotional, actually, in a way it wasn't before. And the crowds, you can feel it from them; they're really appreciative. So it's infusing us; it's energizing us. At first, it was really hard and no one knew how to deal with it or what to make of it. I don't think I could even talk about it. People would ask me how I was doing and what it was like, and I didn't have the words. I hadn't sorted out my feelings. As dancers, we take grief and emotion into our bodies. I remember having a conversation with my physical therapist about the fact that a lot of us were getting injured and the administration was like, "What's going on? Why is everyone having these problems?" And she said, "You know, the body grieves, and this is the way that it's manifesting itself." It blew my mind. I was like, "Oh my God!" Because I haven't been grieving. I haven't been talking about it. I haven't been even really able to think about it, and so my body is taking it on. And I did get really injured—I hurt my back and I was out for three months. I didn't do the City Center [Fall for Dance]. I'm not saying that Merce's death caused my injury, but I do think that the body deals with these things in a way that the mind cannot understand. So I did eventually hurt myself and that was really hard for me to be out and to not know if I was even going to be able to come back. I thought I was going to have to have surgery.

That's what I heard.

It was so crazy. And they left and they went on tour and I missed a whole six-week European tour and the premiere of Antic Meet and all of that.

In Paris?
Yeah, which I had been gearing up for from being an understudy. I sat in New York and I wasn't allowed to exercise or do anything for three months. Can you imagine?

You must have been so depressed.
I thought I was going to go crazy actually, but it was ultimately the best thing for me because I got to do things I don't normally get to do. I got to go to shows, I got to just really get some perspective on what I was doing and what I felt about being in this company and the rest of the time that I had. I got to see my friends. I got to live a little bit, and I read up a lot about the body and healing and psychosomatic things and it really intrigued me and started getting me thinking. It's part of the research for the next piece I'm making, and it's a whole new direction for me. I felt like I was able to come back to the company and now just feel really lucky to be here and doing it.

That's beautiful!
Maybe a little too beautiful [ Laughs ].

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