Merce Cunningham Dance Company Member Dylan Crossman Talks About The Company's Legacy Tour
When 25-year-old Dylan Crossman joined the Merce Cunningham Dance Company last June, he had no idea he was about to embark on a once-in-a-lifetime journey. This February, MCDC begins The Legacy Tour, a two-year-long trip
around the world presenting the work of company founder and groundbreaking choreographer Merce Cunningham, who passed away last July. After the final performance in 2011, the company will close. Crossman, who was a member of the company’s Repertory Understudy Group for two years before joining MCDC, took some time to talk to DS about his experiences with the company.
Dance Spirit: How does it feel to be part of The Legacy Tour?
Dylan Crossman: I don’t realize that it’s happening yet. Having just joined 6 months ago, even realizing that I’m in the company is intense because it’s something I wanted for such a long time. To finally be in the company, especially at a time that’s so special, makes me glad I stuck it out.
: Do you have a favorite piece that’s part of the tour?
and Nearly 90² are special because that was a choreographic process when the understudies got to work with Merce a lot. He gave us all of his attention and all of his trust. Even though we were still training, it always felt like we were good enough for him. Everything about those pieces reminds me of working with Merce.
DS: What was it like to work and train with Merce Cunningham?
DC: It was very rewarding. He would always be looking at us, paying attention, but at the same time he was also discreet; he would let us do our thing. At the end of his life he was in a wheelchair, so most of the communication was done orally. He could show us arms or demonstrate rhythms with his feet–that was something that was very Merce. He used to be a tap dancer, so he would say, “Look,” and tap the rhythm with his feet. But using words creates more flexibility in the choices you can make. Sometimes I think he was vague on purpose to see what each dancer would come up with. He would say, “Step forward,” and one of us would lunge and one of us would step on straight legs and one of us would step on bent legs. He would have a palette of choices in front of him.
: What do you like most about the Cunningham technique?
DC: It’s very rigorous and also very freeing. The whole beginning of the class is set, so you can focus on your body and how it feels because your brain doesn’t have to work hard. Everything we do is so extreme, pushing the limits of the body, so it’s important to know where your body is each day.
DS: How does it feel to know that when this tour concludes, the company will close?
DC: We try to take it day by day. For me, because I just joined, I don’t want to think about the end yet. I’m so happy and pleased and honored to be part of this–I just want to enjoy what’s happening right now.
Photo by Anna Finke