Lucinda Childs' Company Just Performed Her Most Iconic Work For the Last Time. This Is What It Felt Like.
Lucinda Childs' DANCE. Photo by Sally Cohn
Ten years ago I stood outside the New 42nd Street Studios near Times Square in New York City, freezing in a very long line, waiting to audition for Lucinda Childs. I thought about leaving after an announcement was made that dancers who did not register, like me, would not be seen. Today, I am on a plane home from Abu Dhabi where the Lucinda Childs Dance Company just gave its final performance of her 1979 masterpiece, DANCE, at The Performing Arts Center at NYU Abu Dhabi. Lucinda will be the first to say that she asked to see all the dancers waiting outside in 2008, and I am certainly grateful to my 24 year-old self for sticking around to see what would happen.
DANCE is the first piece of Lucinda's choreography I learned and it was the first piece that her newly-formed company performed. The process of learning the work presented its challenges; there were tears and much needed pep talks from family and castmates. But I fell in love with DANCE,too. For close to ten years, I was fortunate to dance this evening-length work all over the world. I'm not entirely sure I'm ready to say good-bye.
Performing a piece like DANCE for such a long period of time was a gift. Dancers, especially modern dancers, rarely get to spend years working on one piece of choreography. Much of my adult life has been built around rehearsing and performing this work, and the ten years have flown by. DANCE has required my complete attention, so much so that if I thought about what I needed to do when I got home or if I had fed my cat dinner, I probably would have missed an entrance or not given a good performance. There is a freedom in the type of focus and attention required in Lucinda's work. To be successful at DANCE, I had to develop mentally and physically together; it is impossible to get through her choreography without that partnership.
I dance for Lucinda because I am passionate about her work, not because I want or expect recognition from her. She is not the type of choreographer to give individualized compliments or attention. This has taught me to trust myself, my work ethic and most importantly, my dancing. Dancing for Lucinda has helped me grow up and take responsibility for my own development as an artist. Her work taught me new ways to think about partnership and camaraderie as every dancer has the same value; we have to work together to achieve beauty and success.
On the plane over to Abu Dhabi I wrote in my journal that I was worried I would psych myself out, make a mistake, and be devastated because I'd never have a chance to redeem my final performance of DANCE. There is an undeniable pressure in dancing something for the last time.
But I did not botch up my last performance, and deep down I guess I knew that DANCE had long ago given me the tools to prevent that from happening. I tried to enjoy and hold on to our final moments on stage. Bowing with my fellow dancers, many of whom have been on this journey with me for 10 years, proved to be an overwhelmingly emotional experience. When the curtain came down, the dancers and Lucinda went back into our pre-show ritual of a group huddle. We stayed holding on to each other for a long time. No one wanted to be the first to break the circle and leave the stage.
DANCE has taught me so many lessons about persistence, focus, determination, minimalism, partnership, family and love. Saying goodbye to DANCE felt like I was saying goodbye to a part of myself and to my family. Our wise tour manager reminded us that DANCE is a part of our DNA now; it will always be inside of us. I found this analogy so comforting because it helped me to realize that I was not saying goodbye. DANCE will be with me always.
Now at 34, I find myself in a very similar place as I did when I was 24 and standing outside the New 42nd Street Studios. Again, I've decided that I will be taking the time to stick around to see what will happen next.
Pacific Northwest Ballet principals Rachel Foster and Jonathan Porretta took their final curtain call on June 9, 2019. Photo by Lindsay Thomas, Courtesy PNB
We all know dance careers are temporary. But this season, it feels like we're saying goodbye to more stars than usual.
Many have turned to social media to share their last curtain calls, thoughts on what it feels like to say farewell to performing, and insights into the ways that dancing has made them who they are. After years of dedicating your life to the studio and stage, the decision to stop dancing is always an emotional one. Each dancer handles it in their own way—whether that means cheekily admitting to having an existential crisis, or simply leaving with no regrets about what you did for love.
We will miss these dancers' performances, but can't wait to see what awaits each in their next chapters.