Keeping Up with a Whirlwind Tour

posted by Rashaun Mitchell on Monday, Nov 14, 2011
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One of the realities of the Legacy Tour and the final days of the company is the succession of farewells and all of the activities surrounding the celebration and commemoration of a long history. The shows are the main attraction, but the subsequent events are just as dazzling and just as draining. Saying goodbye over and over again in each city and with each dance takes its toll. Our last domestic tour asserted itself at a pace with which I could barely keep up. So sometimes, pulling myself away for a day or evening of reflection and relaxation is just as necessary as attending the festivities.

 

Left: Rashaun and Andrea Weber rehearse for Nearly Ninety at Stanford.

Right: Melissa Toogood warms up at the Paramount Theater in Seattle.

 

In Seattle, (near Merce’s hometown of Centralia, Washington) the Cornish School unveiled a new statue depicting Merce, their most famous alum. Though the weather was gloomy over the week, it didn’t dampen spirits. I still managed to shop and eat seafood. Family and friends came out of the woodwork for a last chance to see the Cunningham Co. I had nine family members myself in Seattle. Cousins, ex-teachers, retired Cunningham dancers and college students all filled up the Paramount Theater. The curtain calls were endless. After the last performance, we all assembled at a reception for cocktails and toasts. I dressed in a blazer over a shirt that read “the end is at hand.” My morbid little joke.

 

Our next west coast stop was Palo Alto, CA. Many of us had been there before and remembered the bright sun and hotel pool. In between work activities we all took turns basking and relaxing in what was the last warm location on the Legacy Tour. The Chair of the Stanford Dance Dept. hosted a dinner party with dance students from the college. It was refreshing to be able to mingle and swap stories with younger dancers who are just being introduced to Merce’s work as we are saying our goodbyes. The evening ended with an impromptu musical performance by John King, Daniel Madoff and David Vaughan, singing “The best things in life are free”.

 

John King, Daniel Madoff, and David Vaughan.

 

We performed the very last Nearly Ninety 2, which is the final piece Merce made. Much of the dance was made on the under-studies, all of whom are now in the company, performing the material with a confidence and exuberance that can only come from a sense of ownership. Merce also gave a special gift to many of us before he passed. He created a series of eight solos that reflect the individual talents of each performer. I remember the creation process of my solo having an organic feeling and sense of play, kind of like an open-ended question. As I watched in the wings during this last performance, I noticed that the other dancers off-stage were watching the piece like hawks, trying to savor this special and finite experience.

 

Costumes for Nearly Ninety.


Next stop: Minneapolis. We attended the opening of an exhibit at the Walker Museum of Art containing set pieces, costumes, videos and letters of Merce and his collaborators’ work. Witnessing the preservation of his art before we have even disbanded is the strangest kind of foretelling. But the exhibit was beautiful and the Walker is unique in its collection. Over the next few days we put life into the Rauschenberg’s objects and costumes onstage in Antic Meet (performed after Pond Way and Rainforest).

 

Sage Cowles, longtime supporter and all-around most-spirited-player hosted, once again, a fabulous party in her loft. This was the saddest goodbye so far, but she assured us that even though the company was ending and we would all splinter off to do various new projects, her home in Minneapolis would be there for us in the future.

 

Rashaun with Sage Cowles (left) and Andrea Weber.