You're from Kentucky. How old were you when you started dance?
I started dancing when I was four. [Laughs] A very long time ago.
Why did you start?
I don't remember making any conscious decision about going, and I don't know exactly why my parents put me in dance class, but I do remember that my father had an office next to a dance studio, and when I was born, my great aunt went to the woman who ran the studio and said, "I have a new dancer for you." And the woman said, "Well, great. When does she start? Bring her over!" And my great aunt said, "Well, she was just born." But I ended up training with this woman four years later. The studio had moved locations, but that is actually where I grew up and that's where I had my dance training. Her name was Joy Johnson and her studio was Johnson's Dance Studio and then also the Owensboro Dance Theatre, which was a preprofessional company that she started with another woman, my ballet teacher, Karen Carothers. It's funny to think about that.
Was the training predominantly ballet?
No. I started with typical ballet, tap and gymnastics. And Ms. Johnson told my mother that she really should put me in just a straight gymnastics class because I was trying to do things that were too advanced, and she thought that I needed a bit more supervision and more of a challenge. So when I was very young, I actually was more interested in gymnastics. I wanted to be the next Mary Lou Retton. I trained a bit and competed and did all of that, which feels like another lifetime.
What were you drawn to in gymnastics?
The floor routine because it was the most dancey! I loved the balance beam and I loved the floor. The uneven parallel bars and the vault—I just didn't have that bulk strength and I knew it. Even as a young girl, I was like, I like the dancey stuff. So I had to make a decision around eight, nine, ten: Am I gonna give up gymnastics and really focus on my dancing? What am I going to do? So I chose dancing.
It's crazy how little kids have to make such serious decisions.
Yeah. A nine-, ten-year-old making a career-path choice at that time? It seems absurd.
How often did you train at that point? Was it serious?
Up until age ten, it was probably two to three days a week, and then after that, definitely four days a week. I started going to some auditions for summer dance programs—ballet summer programs. When I was 12, I went to the Boston Ballet children's summer program and that sparked a greater focus on ballet. But also about the time I was seven or eight, I studied jazz dance. We had very, very good jazz training at my studio: Gus Giordano's jazz—his style. And his daughter Nan used to come and set pieces on us. It was very serious. Actually, the classes are quite similar to even a Cunningham class.
You start with various back exercises and isolations of the body and legwork and move into combinations across the floor. So I ended up with very serious jazz training and very serious ballet training. Jazz dance is very serious and very sexy and sensual. I thought to myself, I'm 12. You know? I'm not sexy. [Laughs] This isn't for me, this is for when I'm more mature, and I've had some life experience. I don't know that most kids today would really think about that, but having this very clear understanding of my own development as a person was kind of humorous. So when I was 12 or 13, I started becoming more serious about ballet and really wanting to pursue that. I started supplementing my training by traveling to a town that was an hour away from where I lived to take class on the weekends and on Wednesdays because there was no class at my studio on Wednesdays. Just to get all that I could.
You went to Purchase. What happened in terms of ballet? Did you continue?
I left home my senior year of high school and moved to Connecticut to study at the Nutmeg Ballet. It's a conservatory program. I spent my senior year of high school at the public high school there. I was totally living on my own with some other dance students; their training is hard-core Vaganova. So I did that program for two years and also did an apprenticeship with the Louisville Ballet for a season. And then I took a little time off. I was actually thinking that I was gonna quit dancing. I went to a lot of ballet auditions and something wasn't clicking. The typical story: You make it to the end of the audition and then you get a phone call: "We want someone with more experience." It's like, Okay, I'm 19 years old. How am I supposed to get experience if everybody wants someone with more experience?
Now, after having a career, I have more sympathy for that. But I was very unsure about what I was going to do. I was interested in visual art. I thought I might become an art student or go a more academic route. After visiting a lot of colleges with all different sorts of programs—every school had a dance department, but not all of them had majors—I just sort of woke up one morning and said, I still want to try to dance. And I'd had a little bit of modern dance training when I was at Nutmeg Ballet. I got introduced to Graham. Momix actually was very near, so I had just seen a lot of their performances. I went to Purchase with the intention of wanting to study modern dance. But of course, I get there and I had obviously had a lot of serious ballet training, so the ballet faculty was very excited to have a very well-trained young dancer to work with. So it was difficult, because you get labeled when you enter a program like that: Oh, they're a ballet dancer; oh, they're this.... But I was introduced to Cunningham, which somehow bridged the gap between the modern dance that felt really, really unfamiliar to my body and ballet training. Somehow, it made sense more than any of the other modern classes. One day, [the choreographer] Kevin Wynn said to a friend of mine—I was new, a freshman: "That Jennifer Goggans, she works like a dog!" I wanted to learn everything. I wanted to learn as much as I could. I didn't care. Graham class, I didn't really understand what all the drama was about, and I knew that that wasn't really instinctual to me, but I wanted to learn something new—it just didn't matter. I wanted to learn as much as I could.
When did you encounter the Cunningham technique?
The second semester I was there, Cathy Kerr came to set Duets. I wasn't in the piece that first year, but she was my teacher. I had her twice a week, actually from second semester until I left. So I had very good Cunningham training all while I was at Purchase. They did Duets for two years, so I was actually in the piece the following year.
What part did you do?
Well the second year that she set the piece—because a lot of the same students were in it from the year before—she cast it so that each person danced three of the six duets. So I did the odd numbers: one, three and five. It's sort of strange: We just reconstructed Duets recently, and I'm doing one of the same ones I did at Purchase. It's a very strange circle.
Did you come to the city to take class at the studio as well?
Yeah. After my sophomore year, I was on scholarship for the summer. I did some waitressing on Sixth Avenue and took my Cunningham classes. The next year, I actually didn't come to the studio. I was recovering from an injury; I had a very bad stress fracture in my shin. So that healed up very nicely. [Laughs] And I didn't spend a lot of time at the studio again—I would come during spring break—any chance I had. But I was here the winter break of my senior year. And I came and did a workshop that Robert [Swinston] was teaching for a piece called Field Dances. In Field Dances, you learn all of these small phrases—they're relatively simple; most people could do them. You don't need extensive dance training to do this dance. Then you pick and choose what you do, and there's a bit of a sense of improvisation within it. I took this workshop and I was actually very unhappy. [Laughs] I was a senior in college. I wanted to learn a serious, hard-core, technical dance, and this wasn't that.
What did you do?
I called my mother at the end of the week and I cried and I said, "What am I gonna do with my life? I really like Cunningham, but there are all of these people that have been here for so long. And there are students and understudies and I'm never gonna have a chance and woe is me." [Laughs] And I hung up the phone with my mother, who was trying to console me, and about an hour later, Robert called and said, "Jennifer, there is a woman who has given her notice that she's going to be leaving the company in June, and we are looking for a replacement for her. I need you to start as an understudy on Monday." And this was Saturday. He said, "We have let go of the understudies that are currently here"—which was sad—"and we're hiring you and Mandy Kirschner, who had been my roommate in college. So we were, in essence, competing for Maydelle's [Fason] contract. Which is not a very easy situation to be in with a close friend, but luckily, we were close enough that we could talk about it and help support each other through it. And so I said, "Robert, I have to start school on Wednesday. I don't know what you're talking about!" And he said, "Oh, I've already talked to [the] school, and we've already worked it out." I felt like the gates were open and suddenly I was able to see my life ahead of me.
I actually managed to graduate and had to do my senior project and I ended up joining the company in June and replaced Maydelle, and Mandy replaced Jean Freebury a month in. It all worked out.
What did you do your senior project on?
I actually ended up performing a Cunningham solo and duet, both from Scramble. And then I had to choreograph a piece, which I'm sure I would be ashamed of if I looked at it now. It's kind of a contemporary-ballet piece that I would never show anyone. [Laughs]
Wow. That was fast for you.
Yeah. A lot of people are taking class here at the studio for years and then are understudies for a couple of years. That was not my experience. I walked in and, "We want you to start Monday." [Laughs] I had been around, but it was actually a bit awkward because the company members—and even Merce—didn't know me very well. There was definitely a feeling of, Okay, I've been handed this position—not only am I competing with my very close friend for this contract, but I have to prove myself. So it was a very stressful time.
What was good about being thrown in then, with all of your perspective?
Well, it was really sink or swim, so there wasn't any time to wait around and get depressed about, Am I? Am I not? I just had to do it. I had to learn it. I had to get onstage whether I was ready or confident and just go. I feel like that was the best thing for me. And at the time, that happened a little bit more often. You would see people grow a lot in their first few years in the company because the understudies weren't that involved; they didn't work with Merce like they did later. I was sort of the last group that simply got thrown in. Even though you were replacing a particular dancer, you didn't necessarily inherit all of their roles. Some of those roles would be divvied up among more senior members; you had to gain Merce's trust. He had to see you and watch you, and then he would make things for you, and you would be given roles within the new works and all of that. I feel like the people that joined within that year that I joined, that was the last time that that happened. There was a big shift in how Merce worked and the whole integration into the company through the understudy program.
Why do you think that happened at that point?
Well Merce was flying to California with us and got a blood clot in his leg and then couldn't travel. And he had traveled everywhere with us, always; having him stay at home and work with the understudies was a way to keep him motivated, creating. It kept him from getting depressed. And it worked, but there was a lot of upset in the company because of that. All of the sudden, you're learning roles from the understudies. If you would tell most professionals that, they would look at you cross-eyed because that's not the normal progression of things. It was, as with any life change, can you go along with the change? Can you find something in it that is still positive for yourself?
So how did you reconcile that?
I felt like I was still young enough as a person and also in my experience with the company that it was a difficult change, but it wasn't something that I was completely against. Because going into the studio with the entire company and Merce standing at the front of the room and teaching you these excruciatingly long phrases—we were all scrambling to learn. That, in itself, was so stressful and then having that thing of, this person sees one thing, this person sees another thing—Merce looks at this person and says, "They're right." There's this sort of level of interpretation, which is beautiful and special, but learning things as a group in this very high pressure situation was not something that I enjoyed.
You explained it well.
So we're working one-on-on with him, learning a phrase, learning a solo, having that moment where you could say to him, "Can you please repeat that, Merce? I don't really quite understand—do you want it like this? Like that?" That kind of interaction was amazing and really where you felt that you were a part of the creative process. You were figuring out the movement. As he was giving it to you. He would adjust things. That was truly a special gift. But being in the room with the entire group, trying to figure out if the arm is bent or straight or front or back, that was so stressful. At that point, Merce was explaining most of the movement verbally; he wasn't able to actually show things physically. He did a little bit during my first couple of years—he would stand up and you would try to decipher what he was doing, but four years in, everything was verbal. It was such a slow process. I much preferred looking at a body and someone I was able to ask questions of—I would ask as many questions as I wanted, and ask them to show me again and again. It was far less stressful for me to just work with a young dancer and say, "Listen, you have to show me again. I don't have it yet."
When did you first work with Merce in a one-on-one situation? Can you talk about that?
Yes. For Way Station, which was the first piece he created after I had joined the company, he called Mandy Kirschner and me into the room to work on this little duet. We were absolutely terrified, completely terrified.
Yeah. Things changed a lot over the years, but we didn't really ever have one-on-one time with him. It was, usually, you learn your part and you do it, and everyone's in the room. But we were alone with him, and he was standing in front of the room at the barre, and he was showing us these steps. And we couldn't figure it out. So we kept trying different things—we were like, "Like this?" It was this very little, small, like [In a bright whisper], "Step forward, step back, step forward, step back." We weren't sure. "Merce, do you want us to jump?" [She deepens her voice.] "No, no, no. It's like this." And we'd try it again. "No, no, no." There was a lot of no, no, no. We were so unclear about what he wanted. And he wasn't able to show it, obviously, quite so clearly, so he worked with us for a little while and then we left, and then we came back the following day to work on it again and he said, "Okay. I think this will be more clear. This is what I want you to do." [Laughs] And, of course, what originally looked like a shuffle forward and a shuffle back became a little jump together, jump together, jump together. So Mandy and I had a very nice little moment as friends and as new people doing this little duet at the beginning of the piece. I remember him looking at me as I paused in some position. He wanted me to turn my torso and do this arm movement. I looked at him, and he did three fast arm positions so quickly, and I just looked with my mouth open and said, "Like this?" And I sort of did what I thought I saw but wasn't sure and he said, "Oh, yes, oh yes." And that's what it was. [Laughs] It was very sweet.
What other pieces did you work on like that?
There was a quartet that he made in Loose Time. It was a little more of an intimate group working with him. And Fluid Canvas. Up until Way Station and Loose Time Merce taught us every step, either as a group or [he] would work with us. And then, the next piece was Fluid Canvas and most of the group material he made and taught the company as a whole, but that's when he had actually begun working with the understudies. There was a quartet and a trio. The trio was the first thing that I learned from an understudy. I learned it from Rashaun [Mitchell], Andrea [Weber] and Marcie [Munnerlyn]. And then by the time we did Split Sides, which was the next piece, the majority of it was made on the understudies—even the group material. There were a few duets and solos that he worked with individual company members on, but most of the piece was made on understudies. We lost four dancers after the piece premiered.
Cheryl Therrien, Ashley Chen, Paige Cunningham and Mandy Kirschner. For various reasons, but it was all just after that piece.
You've seen a lot of people come and go. Have you ever thought about leaving seriously? What has made you stay?
Yeah. I have gone through several periods where I asked myself, Should I stay or should I go? But ultimately, there was never anyone else's work that I was drawn to enough. And that was sort of it. I went through a period where I would go see every dance performance, everything I could. Every choreographer, looking—is there something? Is there something I could see myself doing, that I'm appropriate for? And something that I really want to do? Ahhhh, maybe. But nothing that ever drew me in. And then I think at a certain point, especially when Merce really started to decline, I felt, Who knows? He could be here another year, he could be here another five years. But I've been here this long, and this is what I know, and I love to do this work. It challenges me every day, and I want to be here as long as I can. It just so happened that things played out the way they did, and I'm here. On December 31, it will be almost exactly 12 years from when I started as an understudy in January of 2000. I joined the company in June.
How does something you've done for 12 years continue to challenge you?
The movement is so difficult. You can always do something better. I think for some people that could drive them insane and drive them away from it. But I'm stubborn, and if I'm not challenged I get bored. So in that way, it keeps me engaged. I have to keep going to class or I can't do it—or I can't do it well. I have to keep training; I have to keep pushing myself, and even when I don't have that much motivation, I have to find it somewhere.
How do you do that?
[Sighs] I'm very stubborn. Some days it's not very easy, but I'm stubborn.
Do you take Cunningham class or do you take other classes?
I take Cunningham class, I take ballet classes occasionally too, for a little break. I used to go to Jocelyn [Lorenz's] class all the time at 890 Broadway, but she retired, so I've been a little lost without her, I have to say. [Laughs]
What is this time like? Knowing that something is about to be over but it's not finished yet? And you're also Robert Swinston's assistant.
Yes. It's relatively new.
When did that happen?
In the spring, I don't know exactly. It wasn't that long ago.
What are your duties?
I teach company class on the road—not solely. I alternate with him, especially if there's a program where he has some hefty dancing to do and maybe I don't have so much dancing. So I teach company class, I look over the schedule for tour and make sure everything looks okay. Little things that Robert might need me to do; if he has to go to a meeting, he might have me start rehearsal, or if he wants me to watch the understudies do a piece that I know really well, and coach them a little bit. I helped him when we reconstructed RainForest because I had done that piece when Merce was alive. We did it for a couple of years, but intense! We were doing it all the time, so it was a piece that I felt like I had very clear information about, and I remembered a lot of things very clearly that he had said. It was actually the first role that I had ever been given: We started reconstructing that piece the day I joined the company. It wasn't the first thing I learned, but it was the first piece that I had learned where I was given my own role. It wasn't something inherited. So I had very, very vivid memories of things that he said to the other dancers and coaching and timing.
What did he say?
Well, more specific, I even remember Merce getting out of his chair and crawling on the floor to show Robert and Ashley, who were dancing Merce's role, how they were supposed to crawl. And the whole room stopped because he wasn't so agile—he got out of his chair and was like, "No, No! It's like this!" And he's down on the floor. There's a lot of stillness in the piece, and after learning it and doing it for a while, I felt like I finally started to understand—I don't really know how to define it, but the sense of timing in a Cunningham work. Like that dramatic sense of timing? It taught me that. And so trying to share some of that with the other dancers: "No, you can just, wait, wait, wait. Don't move right away. Just stay there. Let it settle. And then go."
Without showing anything.
Yeah. It's okay to be quiet. The power of stillness in that piece is something that I felt like I was able to learn very early and hopefully was able to share a little bit with my colleagues.
And you're dancing that piece again, right?
One of my all-time favorite programs was BIPED and RainForest.
Yeah. So different. The one is so animalistic and has a kind of visceral feeling, and then BIPED is so austere and precise.
The way you're imitating his voice is interesting: I think about how frail he was at the end, but his voice was always so powerful.
Yeah. He could quiet a room if he wanted to. He didn't do it very often, but if he wanted to, he could. [Laughs]
How did Merce's death affect you? How prepared were you?
I had a feeling. You can say that. I've had a few relatives that I was very close to—my grandmother. Back when I was in college, watching her decline. I had a teacher at Purchase, Gayle Young. He'd been with American Ballet Theatre and done a lot of [Antony] Tudor pieces and he died, I think, of emphysema. There was just something I recognized in interacting with [Merce] where he was starting to pull away. He wasn't always there. And it's heart-wrenching, but he never let on about being in pain or his sufferings or anything. He just wanted to work. That's all he ever wanted to do.
He wanted to come in, he wanted to work, he wanted to teach, he wanted to get some more steps out. Whoever wanted to learn 'em, as fast as possible, learned new steps. And so I was shocked, but I felt like I knew it wasn't going to be long. We had had a little time off and were coming back to work; we had a couple of members that had just joined the company, and we were working with them and sorting a few things out and I just knew. I remember telling [my fianc] Arthur one day, I think it's gonna happen soon. We did a performance at Wolf Trap, and we called him on Skype before the performance and he talked to us, but it was very ominous. It was as if he was advising us on how to continue and how to stay motivated, and it was almost as if he had really sat and thought about what he wanted to say because he didn't know if that might be it. He was talking about, "It's not just about doing one thing well, it's about trying to do everything as well as you can." And all of these sort of words of wisdom and, "You must find a way to keep going." I remember thinking, Do you mean, keep going without you? The phone call ended and everybody just was still. No one could really talk or even breathe. There was a lot of emotion and some tears. And so we knew something was up. Just before we went to Jacob's Pillow, we all went and kind of said goodbye to him, which was terrible. And there was something: We said goodbye and then we said goodbye again [in a second round], which was sort of even worse. [Laughs] You know? It's like, oh well, it didn't quite happen yet and this is awkward, but here we are again! So yeah. I heard on NPR. That's how I found out.
Yeah. Because I hadn't...I didn't look at my e-mail. We were off. We had finished Jacob's Pillow. I didn't look at anything; I had on NPR. I had to have a little time to myself, needless to say.
What was the experience performing later that summer in Battery Park?
Highly emotional. I had had a dream that night and, as weird as it sounds, Merce was in the dream. I don't remember specifically, but in my dream, we danced and he bowed with us. I woke up hysterically crying, and it was one of those things that I couldn't even really talk about with anybody because I just felt like I was going to cry all day long. You know, when you can't control it because you're so emotional? And I remember coming out to do this duet with Rashaun, and we hadn't been partners for very long. I think maybe that was the first time we had done it together, but it was a duet that I had been doing since I joined the company. I went to do this arch back outside in this beautiful weather, and I couldn't—you know when your diaphragm starts to shake and you're starting to tear up. And Rashaun said, "I've never had to support you so much doing that before," and I was like, "Well, that's because I was about to start hysterically crying!" I remember, afterwards, looking out in the audience: You could feel the support. You could feel the love in the air.
It was just haunting. And that blue sky.
Yeah. We were so exhausted. Didn't we do it twice in one day? We were supposed to do it twice again and there was a horrible storm. We were all relieved. We were like, It never rains for these kind of outdoor things. Never. It never does. Ever. We're like, Well, somebody wants to give us a break now, don't they?
What are your plans? You're staging Cunningham pieces, right?
Yeah. I've had the experience of staging the same work twice and to do some solos with some students. I am definitely interested in any opportunities to stage the work. I would love to continue doing that. And teaching opportunities as they arise. Definitely interested in continuing to teach.
Do you think that ballet companies can do Merce's work well? How do you feel about all that?
How do I say this? It's possible. Yes. What is different generally about ballet training is that ballet dancers generally create the illusion of weightlessness. Cunningham, although there are similar goals in the technical aspects of the leg work, the back work on top of it is something that most ballet dancers are not all that familiar with. Most ballet companies do contemporary work now. I mean, you have to—I don't care what company it is. You're doing some contemporary work, and if it's not necessarily modern dance they have to move their spine. But the way that the Cunningham technique is—the spine is often moving in complete opposition to the leg work. That is something that's just not familiar. It's not in their training. And the grounded use of the pli and the big fourth positions, and that use of weight that makes it modern dance, is also the antithesis of their training. It's not what they do. You don't want a woman in pointe shoes looking heavy and weighted in her movement. Ultimately, I feel like a great dancer is a great dancer, and if you're a great dancer in a ballet company, you can do most anything. If you're even a really great modern dancer—yeah, you may not have the typical body type of a ballet dancer, but you can take a ballet class and look spectacular. Ballet companies generally have a different aesthetic. They work in a different way. So can they do Cunningham works? Yes. Will they be open to the experience and open to maybe changing their ideas about things? That's up to the individual. I think even within a company, some people will be open, some people won't. So you're not dealing with a group of people trained and there for the purpose of doing this specific work. Sometimes there's a resistance. Sometimes people are completely open. I set Cross Currents on two contemporary ballet companies, and the people I worked with were fantastic.
You can almost always find a few people in a company who are wide open.
Yeah. They were fantastic. Do they do Cunningham works every day? No. So does it look exactly the same? No. But you can see it, and I think that they had a beautiful experience with it and I, in both situations, had a fantastic time sharing this work with other people. The work is still being seen, and I think that's positive. Even if it doesn't look quite the same.
How does it feel dancing now? When you step out onstage, do you have that sense like, God, I only have so many shows left?
You know, for me, most of the time when I'm going to perform I feel like, this is it, there aren't that many more—just do it. Maybe there's a little bit more of a sense of freedom. Like there's nothing left to prove: You make a mistake? Life goes on. There's freedom in [the idea to] just go for it. It's almost over. Enjoy it. That's how I've been feeling, generally. Mind you, there are a few pieces that we've reconstructed recently, so you're like, Okay, now I'm onstage doing something I've never done before, and I'm nervous! So, there's that, too, but generally speaking, what have you got to lose? Go for it.
What are you looking forward to in the next few months?
I'm looking forward to performing and savoring that definitely. I have been very up and down emotionally with things coming to an end. Some days I'm thrilled to death. [Laughs] Some days I have an identity crisis. I've been doing this for 12 years. It's very exciting to be able to plan a little bit, have closure and just to open your eyes and say, Oh okay, yeah—there's a whole world out there and my day doesn't have to be just doing this. Maybe I can still be a part of this in some way, but also experience other things, which is very exciting. I think it will be hard waking up when it's over and saying, "I don't have to go to class today. Do I want to take a class? I don't have to go to rehearsal. What would I like to do today?" I mean, I've been dancing nearly every day of my life since I was four years old.
How old are you?
35. So I don't know how I'm going to feel.
Would you consider going to college?
I have thought about it. I have my bachelor's already. Most universities want you to have your master's degree, but the thought of going back to school to study dance to get a master's is like, ugh. I looked into other programs. I also have an interest in costume and fashion design, so I've already taken a few classes at FIT, and I definitely plan to keep doing that. I have to see whether I want to actually commit to going into a program, but I plan on trying to see what my options are given that I already have a bachelor's in another area. And I'm excited about that.
When did you start designing costumes? Did you always sew?
My mother is fantastic. She made a lot of clothes for me when I was a preteen. Children's clothes have changed a lot, but I was so small at 14. I didn't fit into women's clothing, but I didn't want to wear things with ruffles all over them. So she started making a few things for me for special occasions, and I asked her—I think I was 16 or something—if she would teach me how to sew because I said, "I know if I want to be a dancer, I am probably not going to make that much money, and I really like fashion, so I would like to be able to make my own clothes if I want." It was a very practical decision. [Laughs] So of course I picked this difficult outfit, working with chiffon—why my mother even let me try something like that, I have no idea. But that was the beginning, and she bought me a sewing machine when I graduated from Purchase. I have been avidly sewing all while I've been in New York.
Who have you designed costumes for?
The first was when Cdric Andrieux was working with RoseAnne Spradlin. He came in one day and said, "You know, RoseAnne doesn't know what to do with these costumes, and I saw the thing that you had made, and she showed me a picture of this dress she wanted, and I don't know, do you think you could do something like this?" I looked at it and I was like, "Well, Cdric, it's like a tube dress with some trim. I can do that. It's not really an issue." And he said, "Well, you should call her." I was really nervous because I was just basically self-taught. She said that she just needed two dresses, which didn't seem like that much. But I had never actually made anything for anyone other than myself. So I called my mother and said, "Do you think I can do it? I'm really nervous." And she said, "Well, I've been watching Project Runway, and I'm gonna tell you right now, I know the kind of work that you do and I see this show and don't even think twice about it." So I was like, Okay! I sort of made a leap for it, and that was a really great experience working for her. And then I did some costumes for Tere O'Connor and worked with RoseAnne again.
You could audition for Project Runway.
No, no, no, no, no. [Laughs] That's not really my thing.
When you talk about having more freedom now as a dancer within the confines of the work, how do you approach that? How much freedom do you give yourself? Do you see other people breaking out in that way?
I think it's more freedom in the sense of, I am here and I'm dancing because I made a very clear and conscious decision to be here through the Legacy Tour. I am not looking for Merce's approval or a great review. I stayed because I want to. It's a privilege to be able to show the work after having had so much experience, and I'm doing it because I want to be here. I didn't always have that perspective. I didn't always have that perspective when Merce was alive. It was, Okay, I'm dancing, but does he think I'm doing a good job? Or, I think at a certain point very early in the career it's like, Did some reviewer like me? Did my name get mentioned in that? But with experience, especially now, those things really do not matter, and I'm happy that I'm still able to do it. That physically I don't have—knock on some wood—any major injuries or like huge body ailments that keep me in pain all the time. I feel privileged that I had such a long career. It's that freedom of just doing it for yourself.