Joined the Merce Cunningham Dance Company in 2004.
Mon Oct 19 2009
This has been such an intense time—what are you thinking about in terms of this memorial?
Well, I am definitely thinking about the last performance we had in New York at Rockefeller Park and how emotional it felt to be performing his work so soon after he died. I think it’s going to be really exciting to feel all the love from all of his fans and supporters; I’m thinking it will be great to see everyone, and I’m really excited about watching the other performers. But the year has been incredibly intense. I think Merce was declining slowly for a while, so we were prepared for his eventual death and were able to say our goodbyes. So, in a way, it felt like it was the best situation that it could have possibly been. Now I just feel happy that I can be part of this and carry the torch for the next two years.
Because the world tour will start in January?
Yes. It’s very finite. It’s incredible and scary, and I feel once January starts we’re going to be shot out of a rocket: go, go, go.
I understand how the tour would be incredible, but how is it scary?
It’s probably going to feel like being under a microscope. Everyone’s going to be much more attentive about what it is we’re doing and what his legacy is and who he’s left behind to share his work, so it feels really important and I think there is certain pressure in that. I hope that I can do a good job. I do feel like he’s in me—he’s in my body and it’s my responsibility to share that. This isn’t something that I would have necessarily felt before.
Did you work with him very closely on the solos that you took over? I’m speaking particularly of his own parts.
Yes, I did. He had started to take on more of a passive role by the end but definitely in pieces like Crises and Antic Meet, I worked really closely with him. I also I did a solo from Fractions—Lisa Fox did it originally. And Karole Armitage danced it also, and he asked me to revive it. I was very surprised because I didn’t think he’d ever switched genders in such a way with a solo like that, so I worked really closely with him; he really pushed me to the point where I actually ended up tearing my hamstring. I was out for three months; it certainly wasn’t his fault. I wanted so much to impress him and please him that I just kind of went too far. He always gave me a lot of freedom, and what was really exciting was knowing that you were trusted. Mostly, he just said, “Do it again and again, do it again, do it again,” and sometimes he would say, “Faster,” or, “Slower,” but the comments were never really qualitative, which I always really appreciated. I could bring my own choices and qualities to the things that I did but he would just stay something really small and specific like, “Look slightly up at this point,” or, “Step bigger here.” Those kinds of comments would inevitably charge it in a certain way that was not saying, “Think of that,” or, “Pretend that you’re a bird!” I always appreciated his comments.
Did you visit him before he died?
Yeah. We were lucky enough to have been given some warning that he was maybe going to die and we all went over in a few groups to his house and sat and chatted with him. He really looked us each in the eye and said that he loved us all and that he would miss us and to keep going. He talked about his childhood; he reminisced a little bit and the best memory—because I was sitting there and I was holding his hand—was when he asked us, “What has dancing meant for you?” It was incredible. Of course, I didn’t know how to answer that; it was too big of a question. I tried to keep a smile. Some people probably cried, but I just wanted to show him that we were going to be fine and that we loved him.
Can you answer that question now?
It’s such a weird question, but I think that dancing saved me. I feel like there was a period in my life where I was lost and had some negative influences in my life, and I remember when [former Cunningham dancer] Viola Farber died. I studied with her at Sarah Lawrence and her death really snapped me back to reality. I thought, This is precious and I can’t waste this time and this life. And that’s what really got me serious about studying dance and committing myself to it and ever since then there’s been no question for me about being a dancer and practicing and starting over everyday.
A memorial marks the end of an era.