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.
It's a cycle familiar to many: First, a striking image of a lithe, impossibly fit dancer executing a gravity-defying développé catches your eye on Instagram. You pause your scrolling to marvel, over and over again, at her textbook physique.
Inevitably, you take a moment to consider your own body, in comparison. Doubt and negative self-talk first creep, and then flood, in. "I'll never look like that," the voice inside your head whispers. You continue scrolling, but the image has done its dirty work—a gnawing sensation has taken hold, continually reminding you that your own body is inferior, less-than, unworthy.
It's no stretch to say that social media has a huge effect on body image. For dancers—most of whom already have a laser-focus on their appearance—the images they see on Instagram can seem to exacerbate ever-present issues. "Social media is just another trigger," says Nadine Kaslow, a psychologist who works with the dancers of Atlanta Ballet. "And dancers don't need another trigger." In the age of Photoshop and filters, how can dancers keep body dysmorphia at bay?
If "Fosse/Verdon" whet your appetite for the impeccable Gwen Verdon, then Merely Marvelous: The Dancing Genius of Gwen Verdon is the three-course meal you've been craving. The new documentary—available now on Amazon for rental or purchase—dives into the life of the Tony-winning performer and silver-screen star lauded for her charismatic dancing.
Though she's perhaps most well-known today as Bob Fosse's wife and muse, that's not even half of her story. For starters, she'd already won four Tonys before they wed, making her far more famous in the public eye than he was at that point in his career. That's just one of many surprising details we learned during last night's U.S. premiere of Merely Marvelous. Believe us: You're gonna love her even more once you get to know her. Here are eight lesser-known tidbits to get you started.
Every dancer knows that how you fuel your body affects how you feel in the studio. Of course, while breakfast is no more magical than any other meal (despite the enduring myth that it's the most important one of the day), showing up to class hangry is a recipe for unproductive studio time.
So what do your favorite dancers eat in the morning to set themselves up for a busy rehearsal or performance day?
When it comes to dance in the U.S., companies in the South often find themselves overlooked—sometimes even by the presenters in their own backyard. That's where South Arts comes in. This year, the regional nonprofit launched Momentum, an initiative that will provide professional development, mentorship, touring grants and residencies to five Southern dance companies.