Silas Riener

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Had you spoken as a group?
No. Everyone had a different relationship to Merce. Everyone had, to whatever extent, a personal relationship with Merce, and I think that we didn't really deal with it as a group. I don't know if we have ever dealt with it as a group except in the work that we do. That's just how it is. I remember coming back after that—we had a long break after that, it might have been three weeks or something. We were coming back to work, and I was doing the Split Sides solo and in the middle of the piece I just broke down. I don't know. There were those things—it was impacting people in really different ways and at really different rates. I think I said goodbye to him that day at Wolf Trap and that was when it was the realest. But it's an interesting question about the group dynamic and the group mentality of what it means to go on after or in the wake of.

When you say that you broke down—

I mean I started crying, left the room. It was the first time I had done that solo, which was what I think got Merce interested in me. He changed it a lot for me and I have an emotional attachment to that time with him that doing that movement again for the first time, it was a heavy moment.

You were in the studio?
Yeah. We were in the middle of the dance. [Laughs] I just left.

You said everyone had a different relationship with him. What was yours like?
So the day after I got hired was when I sort of met Merce. We were in the elevator together, and he asked me how to say my name and that was the beginning. Because I had such a kind of rocket-ride entry into the company—the new person is always the one that gets the most attention. And you practice your parts the most, you have the most things to check after the piece is over. So I felt like I was always the one in the spotlight for a little while. I don't know how many times Merce and I actually sat down and talked. Maybe at a party a couple of times? Sometimes in the studio, he would just be sitting in his chair and I would go over and talk about birds or clouds or whatever. The weather. So, I don't know. It's hard to say. I think he liked me as a dancer. He liked working with me, and I liked the challenges he was offering a lot. It feels like a long time ago already, which is sobering.

Do you think you'll ever find that challenge elsewhere?
I hope so.

That's kind of what you're searching for?

Mmm hmm. I don't know. I mean when I first started thinking about what I was going to do afterward, I was looking for that. I don't know if it's available. I don't know anyone who's making work that way, but I will keep looking. I mean there are certainly things that I learned from him about that that I hope to employ for myself.

About what?
About physical challenge and rigor. And the possibilities for movement.

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