As I sit back home, far removed from Yale and Yale Dance Theater, I can’t help but feel disbelief at the fact that this journey is over. I will never again dance Roaratorio in the Payne Whitney gym. I will never try the Canfield skips in the awkward rectangular confines of the rehearsal studio. I will never have the pleasure of working with a tandem of three generations of Cunningham dancers to better experience and understand an avenue of modern dance which had previously bewildered me. What I feel is only a fraction of what the Cunningham Company must have felt after their last performance of the Legacy Tour–a mixture of pride, joy, and sadness. It is over.
These past five months have drastically changed the way I see and experience modern dance. I used to be a competitive dance team junkie–the more turns, jumps, and extensions that were in a routine, the more impressed I would be with the performance. When I began ballet, I slowly started to develop an appreciation of the elegance and grace involved in dance. That is why modern dance confused me so much. Why, I wondered, did people dance to non-rhythmic music with non-traditional movements? Where were the fouettes and quadruple pirouettes that were so expected in competitive dance? Where was the “prettiness” that is so lauded in ballet? Where were all the things that I was familiar with? Cunningham was uncharted territory.
The best way to truly understand something is to experience it deeply and fully, in one’s bones. I spent the first half of the project being confused by the choreography, only to realize that by the end of it, I was enchanted by it. I was even more enchanted by it when John Cage’s score was layered on top of the rhythmic movement. It all made… sense.
When I usually dance, I’m wracked by nerves beforehand, thinking about the triple turn or the quick footwork that I don’t quite have yet. But as I sat in the offstage area awaiting my entrance, I didn’t feel nervous at all. In fact, I felt rather at home. The movement was exactly what was natural to do at that moment. I had no hesitation about what came next or the rhythm of my movements. Dancing had never felt more natural.
Before the first performance, Meg smoothed back my hair, held my hands, and said to me, “Promise me one thing: have fun.” And I did. I had the time of my life.