Lucinda Childs' Company Just Performed Her Most Iconic Work For the Last Time. This Is What It Felt Like.
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.
On August 19, 1929, shockwaves were felt throughout the dance world as news spread that impresario Sergei Diaghilev had died. The founder of the Ballets Russes rewrote the course of ballet history as the company toured Europe and the U.S., championing collaborations with modernist composers, artists and designers such as Igor Stravinsky, Pablo Picasso and Coco Chanel. The company launched the careers of its five principal choreographers: Michel Fokine, Vaslav Nijinsky, Léonide Massine, Bronislava Nijinska and George Balanchine.
Just four years ago, the University of Southern California's Glorya Kaufman School of Dance welcomed its first class of BFA students. The program—which boasts world-class faculty and a revolutionary approach to training focused on collaboration and hybridity—immediately established itself as one of the country's most prestigious and most innovative.
Now, the first graduating class is entering the dance field. Here, six of the 33 graduates share what they're doing post-grad, what made their experience at USC Kaufman so meaningful and how it prepared them for their next steps:
Yes, we realize it's only August. But we can't help but to already be musing about all the incredible dance happenings of 2019.
We're getting ready for our annual Readers' Choice feature, and we want to hear from you about the shows you can't stop thinking about, the dance videos that blew your mind and the artists you discovered this year who everyone should know about.
Chiara Valle is just one of many dancers heading back to the studio this fall as companies ramp up for the season. But her journey back has been far more difficult than most.
Valle has been a trainee at The Washington Ballet since 2016, starting at the same time as artistic director Julie Kent. But only a few months into her first season there, she started experiencing excruciating pain high up in her femur. "It felt like someone was stabbing me 24/7," she says. Sometimes at night, the pain got so bad that her roommates would bring her dinner to the bathtub.