Dusan Tynek talks about his BAM Fisher debut

Dusan Tynek talks about his new dances, which weave science and mythology at the BAM Fisher

Time Out New York: Your sense of confidence can just diminish, right?
Dusan Tynek:
Yes. If it’s your height or whatever. I think it was the right thing. I’m kind of glad that it didn’t work out, because then I had an amazing opportunity to work with Lucinda Childs.
Time Out New York: How did that happen?
Dusan Tynek:
Some people encouraged me to audition. She hadn’t done anything with her company for several years, and she was suddenly getting it together, so I was asked to audition and I got the job. That was the end of my Cunningham years. I thanked Robert Swinston and Merce for what they had done for me, but I had to move on. They were very understanding. It was great, a completely different jump. Even in a more abstract way—Merce’s work is abstract. It’s about the movement and the execution, but with Lucinda, it goes even deeper into abstraction because it’s so much about the structure. You have phrases within a piece that slowly change; her musicality and her spatial arrangement are incredible. The repetition is extremely difficult, and you’re working with difficult music: You can’t count “1, 2, 3, 4; 1, 2, 3, 4.” In a Philip Glass score, you can’t really hear the counts in the music—the arpeggios, after a while, all sound pretty much the same, and where your exits and entrances are is so specific. I like that brainy part of it; it appealed to my science brain. I danced with Lucinda for a year. We toured Europe and then had our last performances at BAM. She dissolved the company after that.
Time Out New York: Did you look for another dancing job?
Dusan Tynek:
Ton Simons in the Netherlands also had a Cunningham connection. He had studied there for a long time and also had a company in New York, but then he became the artistic director of Dance Works Rotterdam. He offered me a job. Everyone says it’s so much better in Europe, so I thought, Why don’t I try? It was Cunningham-inflected movement. I felt at home, and I think that’s why he picked me: I had that background. But it was a completely different structure. Suddenly, I had a 13-month salary, paid vacations. I never had so much money in my life! We had a building in Rotterdam with offices and studios and Pilates. It was a dream come true. And we had more than 50 performances a year.
Time Out New York: But the choreography is kind of, eh, right?
Dusan Tynek:
There were some great things—the dancers are amazing. Everyone has conservatory training; I wasn’t completely excited about the work, but the biggest thing for me was that I was missing New York—the scene and the liveliness. And a little bit of the fight, because everything felt handed to you. After a year, I decided to come back to New York. I had danced with so many people by then; I was already making work. I thought, I would love to start my own company. It would be up to me. It’s my fault if it doesn’t succeed, it’s my success if it does.
Time Out New York: Had you been choreographing a lot?
Dusan Tynek:
Yes. At Bard, that was the emphasis. From day one, we were encouraged to choreograph, and after that I put on a show with some friends at Cunningham, and I choreographed in the Netherlands on the company. 
Time Out New York: I’m curious about why you started a company. Most choreographers today don’t have traditional companies.
Dusan Tynek:
Because no one can afford it! I came from the background where there was that model of having a steady group of people, and at the beginning I didn’t know what it was going to be or how much employment I could offer them. I started with a season at the Kitchen, which we rented. It was completely packed. It was so exciting and encouraging, so I wanted to continue. I took some people from Lucinda’s company and some people that I saw in studios, so it was kind of a pickup company, but then it started to slowly congeal into a more steady group of people, and I have two dancers who have danced with me since day one: Elisa Osborne and Alexandra Berger. One of the main reasons I started a company was that I was predominately interested in creating ensemble work, and it was always my vision to have a year-round repertory company and a structure to support that. To accomplish both successfully you really need a dedicated group of dancers. This can only be done by offering the dancers something in return—some kind of stability. We all benefit and grow from the time spent working together. They understand better what I want, and I know what I can get out of them. I have been working very hard over the past ten years to build my company to a level where I can provide my dancers with regular employment, competitive salaries and benefits, and thanks in large part to BAM’s Professional Development Program, we’ve managed to increase our board and staff and are implementing a plan for long-term sustainability. 
Time Out New York: What is that program?
Dusan Tynek:
I’m so excited to be a part of this professional development program that was the brainchild of the DeVos Institute [of Arts Management at the Kennedy Center] and BAM. And Joe Melillo and Karen Brooks Hopkins were incredibly generous in the way that they thought of the community of Brooklyn. They wanted to help out artists that are pushed to the side because everything’s happening in Manhattan. [BAM’s] opera house and the Harvey are kind of it in Brooklyn. Bringing this new venue [BAM Fisher] for smaller groups like us is just groundbreaking. They picked six dance companies from Brooklyn as part of this inaugural year of PDP. We called it the BAM school, and we had amazing sessions about how to run an organization and how to develop a board and how to do fund-raising. Obviously, the organizations involved have been around for a number of years and we have experience doing that, but having someone tell you, “No, you’re doing it right,” or “This is a different way of doing it.” The most important thing for us was that we were paired with these fellows. The DeVos Institute has a program where they help retiring artists to transition into management; our fellows were Richard Chen See from Paul Taylor, Danielle McFall from Momix, and then we started working with Sara Procopio from Shen Wei. It’s been more than a year and our PDP program is over—our performance is the culminating event.

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