Silas Riener

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Can you tell me about the solo?
Yeah. Merce never talked about what was happening. He would just call out a few people's names and you would go in and you would learn something or he would make something. And it was all very class system in a way. So he had called a couple people in to make things on them, and he called me in. No one else was there. He also made the trio in Nearly Ninety—the really slow one that goes across the stage—on me and Holley Farmer and Koji [Mizuta]. And for that solo, he came in. He made some steps. I mean it was crazy because he just makes it and then you do it, and I think it was one day that he made it and it took an hour and a half maybe. No one else was in the room and so whatever I retained was what it became. And so you have to work really hard to make sure you remember exactly what he said for everything because he only says it once. He's not doing it. He's not saying, "Oh, didn't I say this?" He's just throwing it at you. And I remember it was fast. After he would show the steps, he would sometimes give a rhythm for certain parts of it, but I also remember him saying—you know, he always wanted me to vary the tempo at different times—and I remember the instructions for different movements. I think it's a minute and a half long.

And you said that he showed you the movements, but you mean he would speak them?
Yeah: "Step back on your right foot; put your left foot behind you; twist to the right." He made this little step at the beginning that went backward and then went forward and then he had me do it four times in a row. And then he said, "Can you do it, but make a circle around yourself?" And the whole thing's in pli. And at that point for Nearly Ninety, everything was barely off that floor—like the leg just barely off the floor.

What did you choose to perform at the Armory?
We were given a choice. I guess you heard about that. I perform the Split Sides solo a lot in Events, and I didn't want to ask for that because I've done it a lot and it's always a little bit more strange in an Event than it is in the context of the piece. So I asked for something new and Robert and I talked about that together. I learned a couple of different things and what we settled on is a solo in Enter that was originally Foofwa [d'Imobilit's]. I like it. It's challenging.

I can see you in that being in the vein of Foofwa.
I like to watch him a lot.

Is that who you identify with the most?
There's a risk-taking in his dancing that I definitely identify with. He's a lot more organized that I am, and he was organized from a very young age. I don't think I'll ever quite be like that. But he's definitely one of the people that I really admire.

And you probably only saw him in Cunningham on video, right?
Yeah. I mean I know him in the world now and I've seen his work, but mostly I know his white unitard with the T-shirt tucked in from the videos.  It's strange, I feel like I know a lot of people that way and then I meet them and I'm like, "Oh you're that one." I don't do his parts in anything. There are different lineages of people, and a lot of times the person you replace is the part you end up doing. And I'm in a different lineage.

What has this tour been like for you? Knowing that you're performing these pieces for the last time and there's a definite end date? Normally dancers don't get that.
Well, when they retire they get it. In some ways it's been great because a lot of the time it's really difficult to know when it's time to stop, and I've seen a lot of different iterations of that equation and we're being given the opportunity to exit gracefully whether we like it or not. And for me, it will be after four years and that feels like maybe not enough to get really through the whole trajectory of experience, but it was enough time to experience the work. And without Merce, without a creative input of new work, the dynamic changes really dramatically and I feel like it was enough time of that. I don't know if it was enough time with Merce. I would have loved to have made another piece because I think he was interested in me at that point and I was interested in pushing forward, and we didn't get to. At the same time, I got something and I feel happy about that. But the last year and a half has been a really wild time. I've been all over the world; I've been not at all in my apartment. I've gotten the opportunity to perform a lot of work that was both made with Merce or important revivals that were brought back after he passed away. It's definitely made me the dancer I am whether I like it or not. The broken shell of a dancer that I am. Physical and otherwise.

What do you mean? Not being able to be at home?
Yeah, well I don't really mind that at this point. This is a great time to be this kind of traveler for me. I don't know. It makes you crazy; the whole thing makes you crazy.

You have domestic tours too.
Yes. South Bend, Indiana. Iowa. The flu in Iowa with no hot water in the hotel will make you crazy. We were performing in a hotel ballroom at the student center in Iowa with no hot water and I thought I was going to die.

Could I ask you to talk about the pieces that have been meaningful for you?
Pieces or places?

 

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