Lydia Johnson and Company are at Peridance next week for a Repertory Workshop.
June 27-July 1, 11:30-1:00pm
Photo by Kokyat
Jessica Sand has been a member of Lydia Johnson Dance (LJD) since 2004 and has originated major roles as well as serving as a costume designer and rehearsal directory for the company. She was generous enough to share some of her experience and wisdom from her time with LJD.
Where are you originally from? I grew up in Iowa and went to college at Texas Christian University
What drew you to work with LJD? I grew up training primarily in ballet but fell in love with modern dance when I went to college. Lydia's movement is grounded in ballet vocabulary and aesthetics, but she also incorporates the weightedness and momentum that I find so fulfilling in contemporary movement. The fusion of the two is really satisfying.
Photo by Kokyat
Do you remember the first moment you met Lydia or the first day you worked together?
When I first moved to New York a friend of mine was dancing with LJD and arranged for me to come to a rehearsal as a sort of informal audition. Lydia was creating new material that day and I really enjoyed her process-- she explored ideas with focus and enthusiasm, and was open to her dancers' input. Between the originality of the movement and the atmosphere in the studio, I knew I'd found something really special.
What is your favorite memory from rehearsal with LJD? I love creating new movement one on one with Lydia. She has a remarkable ability to choreograph movement that's truly well suited to the individual dancer she's working with, and being a part of that is really exciting.
Photo by Kokyat
What do you always have in your dance bag?
M.E.L.T. balls, foot tape, and arnica massage oil
What advice would you give to dancers interested in dancing with LJD or a similar company? I think that, while being technically strong is obviously important, what really makes a dancer stand out and what Lydia really appreciates in her company members is their ability to let their personality show through their dancing. Not in a flashy, "look at me" way, but in the honesty and nuance of their movement. Lydia's work tends to have a large gestural component to it, which I often find gives the choreography the feel of a conversation. When you can find that element of conversation and make it true for yourself, it gives you the freedom to really speak through your dancing.
What would you say are the "trademark" moments of a class or rehearsal with Lydia? A lot of Lydia's work has themes of community, and that definitely carries over to rehearsals and classes. Everyone in the studio is a respected member of that community and while we're all working towards a common goal, no one is expected to sacrifice their individuality in the process. When you take away the idea of one interpretation of the movement being right or wrong you gain the freedom to really experiment and take risks. That open mindedness fosters an environment in which there's a lot of respect and support, not to mention a lot of friendship and laughter. It's a really refreshing way to work and learn.
Read a review of LJD's last show by Philip Gardner here.