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Megumi Eda, the knockout dancer who’s been with Armitage Gone! Dance since its return to the U.S. in 2003, gives her last performance with the company during its NYC season Jan. 31–Feb. 9.
Megumi Eda and Zoko Zoko in Itutu. Photo: Julieta Cervantes, Courtesy AGD.
With her elegant sensuality and flexibility, Eda animates Armitage’s extreme technique effortlessly. She earned a Bessie Award in 2004 for her stunning performance in Armitage’s Time is the echo of an axe within a wood. She also dazzled as the slinky adagio dancer in Itutu (2009) and the glamorous/funny wanderer in UnEasy (2011).
About the creative process, she says that for Armitage, “the first place is always very abstract. But I always bring my own story and Karole really likes it. She used me for different characters. In the first piece, Echo, I was the beautiful, exotic Asian. But after that I was doing punk or using humor, and I didn’t get bored.” (For more on Armitage’s approach, see “Auditions Guide.”)
Eda, who also danced with Hamburg Ballet, Dutch National Ballet, and Rambert Dance Company after training in Japan, says she will miss working with Armitage. “With Karole I enjoyed being in process. Still she surprises me. And onstage, always, I feel good.”
Eda, 38, has lost none of her ability to mesmerize. But, as the mother of two children, it’s time. “I am not ready to stop totally,” she says. “I probably will dance forever.”
She still takes ballet class at Steps, and she’s learning to edit film to help her husband’s business. Still, “If I think about not dancing, then part of my body will disappear. It won’t be me anymore.”
Armitage Gone! Dance will honor Eda at its gala on Feb. 5, and the Japanese ambassador is expected to make a toast to her. It will be a bittersweet moment for Armitage watchers. —Wendy Perron
Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater has risen to unmatched levels of popularity and financial stability, and Sharon Gersten Luckman has been instrumental in that ascent. Luckman is retiring as executive director at Alvin Ailey Dance Foundation, where she has been since 1992.
Her slate of accomplishments includes helping establish the Ailey/Fordham BFA program, which offers an academic degree alongside professional dance training, and increasing the number of AileyCamps (dance classes, personal development, and creative communication) from 2 to 10. This expansion was possible because of financial growth, with net assets growing from $300,000 to $136 million during her tenure.
“The thing of which I’m most proud—and it ties in to programs and everything else: We built the Joan Weill Center for Dance,” she said. “With this building came so much added visibility for the company, and we were able to expand our school. We had more studios, and we started the Ailey Extension program—real classes for real people.” The sleek building also houses the 235-seat Ailey Citigroup Theater.
The company’s 50th-anniversary celebration in 2009 was another career high note. “It encompassed free performances in all boroughs, a Barbie doll, historic films, and more,” said Luckman, former director of the 92nd Street Y dance center. Bennett Rink, senior director of development and external affairs, will succeed her. The transition follows in the wake of Robert Battle assuming the artistic directorship in 2011 after Judith Jamison. Luckman’s impressive behind-the-scenes work was recognized at the Dec. 4 program of Ailey’s 2012 City Center season. “It’s pretty fabulous that after 21 years I get to step in front of the footlights and be recognized by Robert Battle, Masazumi Chaya, and the dancers on that night,” she said. It’s the visible crowning achievement of a stellar career built largely backstage. —Susan Yung