Americans may not yet know the name Courtney Richardson. But that’s about to change. The Detroit-born Dresden Semperoper Ballett standout will make a rare appearance on U.S. shores April 2–4 at Dance Salad Festival in Houston. The tall, powerful dancer has made her career overseas, becoming the muse of David Dawson (a William Forsythe protégé whose work is beloved in Europe though rarely seen on this side of the Atlantic). Last month, Richardson premiered in the title role of Dawson’s new full-length Tristan and Isolde. The New York Times’ Roslyn Sulcas wrote of her performance: “Ms. Richardson is a world-class ballerina… Nothing is presentational, everything is fluid and dynamic. With each dance phrase, Ms. Richardson offers us paragraphs, not words, mini-essays full of emotion and intention.” For Dance Salad, Richardson will perform Dawson’s Opus 11 and Forsythe’s Workwithinwork. What is it like to dance for these choreographers that most dancers only dream of working with? Richardson gave us the scoop.
What attracts you to Dawson's work?
From the first time I worked with David, I found his movement a language that I understood, and felt like I could express myself speaking it. His work is generated from a very deep, oftentimes emotional place. For me, that is the beauty of dance: the raw, honest, true and uninhibited self exposed for an audience.
Dawson has described Opus 11 as a “love letter” to the dancers he created it on—Yumiko Takeshima and Raphaël Coumes-Marquet. What's it like to step into that role?
I was a bit nervous as first—I knew the significance this pas de deux held. But David created a relevant meaning and purpose for me in my approach. And Raphaël is such a generous, not to mention incredible, partner.
What is Forsythe like in the studio?
What is fantastic about working with him is his ability to instill a creative, engaging and very exploratory environment. He requires it, which can be scary, but I find it also very exciting. He calls for a daring to break out of what maybe is comfortable and to always keep things fresh, even if a piece is 25 years old!
What's the biggest challenge of Workwithinwork?
Keeping it fresh! But that's what I love about it. The piece was created based on improv, so already the pas de deux has that underlying feel, and for me it's fun to play with the dynamics, musicality and with the relationship with my partner.
What have you learned from working with these two choreographers?
Both have encouraged me to always be questioning myself and my ideas about what I'm doing. To use everything that I know, or think I know, about art in its numerous forms. I think this keeps your imagination, your growth and your joy in your work alive!