February 9, 2015 - Dylan Crossman moves like a charged wire, a dancer with a muscularity and poise that leaves one wondering how it could be possible to transition from one movement to another with such clarity, speed and direction. He embodies all the physical prowess seen in, for example an elite footballer, but rather than escaping defenders or lancing a ball into a goal; his motivation surges as if from within – at least that is how I recall him performing the choreography of Merce Cunningham.
I haven’t had the opportunity to see Dylan’s current projects, which are many, live – hopefully he will come to Barcelona soon – but I have been following him from afar. And what I do see is that he seems to be dancing everywhere, and for everyone, including himself, creating and choreographing.
I asked Dylan to share his perspective on what it means to confront change, physically; to take-on new impulses; and to share a little of the everything he is doing.
What is the difference in focusing all your energy on one movement style so distinct, Merce’s, to now embody so many different works, including your own?
Those 2 approaches teach you very different things but let me says this:
I am very happy I got to really dive into/commit to Merce’s technique. It makes you so strong, so fast and it was necessary to do the work. If I hadn’t committed that seriously, I might not have gotten such a solid base. You learn from repetition, from touring, from dancing exhausted. You learn how to take care of yourself. It also taught me risk-taking while protecting my body. Invaluable…
Being freelance is hard. You’re stretched in all different directions, not only in terms of the techniques and choreographic demands you must navigate but the schedules, dynamics of different groups etc. I have not been to physical therapy in a few months and I find it hard to find time/make it my priority to train; there ‘s always a last minute rehearsal that prevents me from taking class. But the rigor from Merce’s company still serves me daily. I know myself and understand my body in a very intimate way and I know how to do what I need to do.
And freelance means no health insurance, retirement, etc either.
But it is so enriching. I grow differently in every project and that new addition to my dancing self follows me to the next project. It’s fun to always be with different people though sometimes I could do without the running around…
Has your body changed?
My body has relaxed. It came into its own. With Merce, I wanted to do so well that I would try too hard. I would try to force my way through, control everything. I have learned to breathe, to let go, to lessen the control, to experience gravity and create variations in my movement intensity. I think I’m a more subtle dancer.
Has your mind changed?
It goes with the body, I have a bigger palette of how to approach movement, make it work for me. I know my strengths and weaknesses. And my relationship to them is less emotional and more honest. And I’ve learned to say no to things. It’s important. I have to protect my body, my mind, myself : I’m my own manager… I work hard but now I give myself room to do what I need to as work days elongate and days off are scarce.
Crossman Dans(c)e @ Bouge d’Ici (Montreal)
photo: Cindy Lopez
Do you find yourself taking unexpected inspiration, impulses? What are they?
I’ve recently been disappointed and upset at the lack of funding and resources in modern dance in NYC. All freelance modern dancers have to work so hard that it is forcing all of us to- if not to compromise- rethink our artistic process. So I decided to use that, as opposed to fight it. I am working on a piece- an experiment- where I am making a series of solos for high-caliber dancers in a very limited amount of time which will be presented in a spontaneous and random way (solos, duets, trios and group formations). The idea behind this process is to question stage dramaturgy as well as address the realities of our lives.
Pam Tanowitz @ Lincoln Center Out of Doors
photo: Kevin Yatarola
And what are you working on now?
I am dancing for Pam Tanowitz. She has been commissioned to make a piece to David Lang’s music at the Guggenheim. The work is challenging and rigorous but Pam leaves us a lot of room as far as interpretation.
I am dancing for a Canadian choreographer, Sylvain Emard on an-all male piece to be presented in Montreal. It made me really strong and allowed me to find myself again after Merce.
I am sharing a show – my company Crossman Dans(c)e – with Kimberly Bartosik (while also dancing in her latest trio, Ecsteriority 4) at Abrons Art Center in the Spring, which is also part of the Travelogues series curated by Laurie Uprichard. Working with Kimberly has been mostly in residencies – which is rare – so we have been able to work intensely and find a depth to the piece rapidly. Her movement is exhausting and freeing.
I have been teaching Cunningham technique at Purchase College. It’s been a blast and has taught me so much about my own dancing and how much I have learned from Merce Cunningham’s work. Mostly the risk-taking and the understanding of time and how to stretch it.
I have been dancing with visual-artist Ryan McNamara, who was recently presented by Art Basel Miami 2014. It was great working with Ryan, such an easy communication between us and an artistic connection. The piece birthed a character that grew night after night.
I am working with French and immigrant children in France applying Merce’s principles of chance and relative impossibility. They are so free, inventive and audacious. Our last project, based on Merce Cunningham’s Beach Birds, won a 2014 Artistic and Cultural Audacity Award, presented by President Hollande.
I have also been working with team managers in the social work field, using dance as a means for conflict-resolution and career development.
My company, Crossman Dans(c)e, was created in 2013 and looks at identity issues in human behaviour. Its work has been seen at DanceRoulette (BK), La MaMa moves! and Norte Maar’s Socrates Dance Festival, Montreal and Montpellier, France.
Dylan has just premiered Pam Tanowitz’s Broken Story (wherein there is no ecstasy) at the Guggenheim museum in New York. He is touring Sylvain Émard’s Ce n’est pas la fin du monde and Sally Silvers‘ Actual Size. Dylan will present his latest solo, Bound, at Abrons Art Center May 20-23 alongside Kimberly Bartosik’s Ecsteriority 4 (which he is also dancing in). A group piece, We were walks and then you fell, will be presented at the 92nd street Y in New York on June 5th.