Coming back to the teaching work for a minute, I'm curious about how your ETW curriculum evolved. Performance and teaching have always happened together for you - was there never a feeling it had to be a trade-off between the two?
It is a trade-off at times. Being full-time at NYU involves a lot of teaching responsibility and so sometimes I have to turn down performances. I only have so much energy for one thing at a time. But my journey at NYU is a very deep and developed one. I was brought in there, as I said, by Mary Overlie to teach Allan Wayne work, but also because when ETW started, it was probably the first university program in the country to include Contact as a core curriculum; so all of the dance faculty at the time, taught CI, and other things. This faculty was Nina Martin, Wendell Beavers, Mary Overlie, and myself. We were the four movement faculty when I started teaching at ETW in 1983 as an adjunct. We were also the four members of the Mary Overlie Dance Co.
As the program grew and changed and I grew and changed, I also grew in my teaching and performance work. Allan Wayne work developed into a methodology for choreographing and finding original movement on the part of the students who were sometimes then performers in my works. I also studied a lot with Bonnie Bainbridge-Cohen. Her Fluids Systems, Organ work, and Muscular-Skeletal Systems work has deeply informed my teaching. I studied with Marjorie Barstow and brought elements of her approach to Alexander Technique into my alignment work. Looking back, I'm realizing that I was really lucky to work with some great teachers - not teachers who made me follow their work, but who released my imagination and my teaching intelligence to discover my own stride. Sometimes I think that I'm teaching "this person's" work, but I'm actually teaching my work - I don't think anybody teaches like me, probably not.
I don't think so.
You would know! --And sometimes it's just a big old chaotic party, and then we get to some serious stuff.
You have a very unique stamp in your teaching. I remember the very first time I walked into your class, I thought, I'm entering a different territory than I've ever been in before. And it didn't feel like I was learning somebody's technique, it felt like I was entering your universe - which is partly your demeanor and teaching manner, but there's also an unassuming way of inviting us to participate in something.
That's very important to me.
It always feels so natural - I'm curious how you see that - there's something about that that gives a freedom to the classroom that I haven't experienced anywhere else.
I'm glad to hear that - I work to create that atmosphere deliberately, and I had some teachers like that, who were unassuming, open-minded, and ready to have it be a real forum for breakthroughs and open-ended exploration. That inviting demeanor, it doesn't mean I'm not serious - it's a way of-
No - it actually feels very holy, it gets at a sort of reverence and respect without feeling heavy or-
These are goals that I consciously think about. Sometimes I think that style is just chemically in me. There are some crazy things about the way I teach.
Like, at the beginning of class doing extremely gentle partnering, alignment work, but I invite students to bring music for warm-ups. So there'll be some pop music just blasting the sound system while we're doing very quiet meditative stuff. Now, that may not be found in other classes, but for some reason it works. People are very quiet and focused and this music is just blasting away. Maybe I shouldn't do it because it's breaking all the rules of atmosphere, but I find it refreshing - it's like the music is these wild elephants in the corner, and we can just forget about them, but they're giving us some good energy to be still and gentle.
Thank goodness... It keeps things out of that stodgy territory that can often happen when you're working in a tradition-
I don't like stodgy!