Silas Riener

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Do you agree with the idea to disband the company?
I do.

Why?
I think for a lot of the reasons I've stated already about the energetic component of a creative work, going into a group that was designed around the input of a creative master. And I have seen how it has changed in subtle ways and for that reason alone I think that this iteration of the model has to close in order to make way for something else. I don't think it should be the end of Merce's work, but I think that this company has existed for as long as it can.

Will you miss technique class?
I will likely still take class. I have ideological problems with class.

Like what?
I think that Merce designed class in order to support the work that he was making and that it makes the most sense when you're doing the work and there are things about it, the physical research that Merce was doing that don't make a lot of sense for a technique class for training. For a technique, I do think that Cunningham class offers an organization and a strength that is invaluable in the training of a dancer, but we do it every day and it creates problems as well.

Physical problems?
Physical problems.

Right. Do you think it would be better to take ballet?
I think that it's better to do a lot of things. I take ballet now. It depends on what you're doing. It depends on what kind of work you're performing. Merce's work changed a lot through the ages, which we can now talk about. And it always supported the work that he was making. At the end, the work that he was making was extreme. I just have some questions about if you're not making that work or not doing that work, what other purpose is there? I mean they always said that you had to take a class before you could take a Balanchine class, especially at the end. It wasn't the thing that got you warm to dance. It was just what he was into. And I think it was the same with Merce. For ballet right now, I take Janet Panetta when she's in town. I sometimes take Christine Wright. I sometimes take Zvi Gotheiner. There's a woman called Giada Ferrone who teaches a really great class, but it's on Saturdays at 2pm, and I can't really support that. [Laughs]

What was it like to say goodbye to Merce? I know you probably did it twice.

The long version is that we were performing at Wolf Trap. I think it was early July and so Merce had not been coming on tour a little bit at that point. But a couple times we set up a live stream of the show. Every time he wasn't on tour, we would call him before the show and everyone would get a little second on the phone. And at Wolf Trap we Skyped with Merce before the show. He was in bed and in his pajamas and he wanted each of us to put our face in the camera, one by one. And then he said a few things to all of us. And I remember Laura Kuhn was there at his apartment and his nurse was there. And there was something about it that it just was like he was saying goodbye. It was clear to me at that point that he was going to die. That's when I felt it. After I stopped crying, we did the show: We did Split Sides and Sounddance. It was my first time doing Sounddance because Koji had left and I learned that part. And then we came back [to New York] and Trevor said Merce is dying, we have to all go and say goodbye. So we went in groups of two or four. I went with Anna Finke who's the costume designer and wardrobe supervisor for the company and a dear, dear friend of mine. We walked over—Merce used to live above the Container Store on Sixth Avenue at 18th Street—and Trevor was there. Merce was in his bed. He was awake. And we talked.

What about?
We talked about the carpenter who had come to fix the windows in his apartment, this woodworker. We talked about some stones that were there. And that's kind of it.

Some stones?
Like there were rocks or plants in his apartment. We talked about everything except the situation at hand, which is how Merce was to me. I think a lot of people wanted to share something really metaphysical or closing at that moment, and I don't know. I couldn't do that. We talked. It was nice. And then we left. And then he didn't die, and we were leaving to go to Jacob's Pillow and we all drove in the van and we all stopped by.

On the way there?
On the way out. We did eight shows at Jacob's Pillow that week, like kind of hovering in that place and that's when they did the live stream to Merce of the show. And then we came home and that night Merce died. And that morning I got the phone call.

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