Coming from Wichita, Kansas, I had a pretty limited scope of what dance was. There were the classical pas deux that I learned way before I was ready to be lifting humans and it kind of ended there. Shortly after I began classes, Wichita State University presented a solo show by Alwin Nikolais. It was weird and abstract and I didn’t understand it. It made me uncomfortable. But after the show, he did a question and answer session. I stayed because I wanted some kind of clue as to what it was…why it should be important. I was too shy to ask a question but someone else in the audience basically asked my question by telling their (lengthy) interpretation of the performance and then asking if it was correct. And Alvin Nikolais said that he thought that this interpretation sounded great…not that it was right, but that it was good. And the audience laughed because he wouldn’t tell us what he thought it was about. And my mind was blown. To get permission to not need to unlock some secret code, but that my interpretation as an audience member could be what was the important meaning for me. This is when I think I became a choreographer.
Years later, when I was a dancer with Houston Ballet, the scope of what I knew in dance was still very limited. I had only seen a handful of dance companies and I still saw classical vocabulary as the limited repertoire within my reach. And then Parson’s Dance Company came to town. They were brash; they were rock and roll; the ideas were exciting and creative and accessible. I wanted to be a part of that. Seeing pieces like The Envelope and Caught showed me that maybe anything could happen. The company taught a master class the next day and I was there pushing my way into the front row with the company dancers. I soaked it up like a sponge.
Those early experiences made a lasting impression and the work I saw from David influenced the choreographer I would eventually become.
So now, all of these years later, to be invited to stage Ma Maison on the company is a kind of full-circle and life affirming. It seems impossible. Or at least if I go back and re-inhabit my 20 year old head, it would seem utterly impossible. And to have the dancers be so kind and welcoming and present for every moment of rehearsal…they rehearse like they perform. The week was kind of a dream.
And it makes me reconsider the times that someone has communicated that I have inspired them in some way. It’s easy to miss the moment in what you think should be humility…or insecurity that maybe they’re just saying something to blow smoke up your ass for whatever imagined reason. But I see it when I tell David how much his life’s work has meant to me…he can’t hear it with the same weight that it has for me. He can’t really see that my life would be different if he hadn’t made what he made. So it makes me listen more. To really sit in the moment if someone has some gratitude to express. It’s a little like I’ve woken up…to be more present and thankful for those times now and to hear them differently.