Young dancer Daniel Madoff received his BFA in Dance in 2006 and joined Merce Cunningham Dance Company (MCDC) the next year. This week, he performs in the world premiere of the revival of Merce Cunningham’s “Roaratorio.” This engagement is the final opportunity for Angelenos to see Cunningham’s work performed by the dancers he personally trained (Cunningham died last year.).



How did you get involved with MCDC?

Madoff: When I was a sophomore in school at Purchase College, I was cast by Carol Teitelbaum and Carolyn Brown in one of Merce’s dances called “Septet.” My junior year, I was offered a job with the Martha Graham Dance Company, but a few months later, the offer was rescinded due to financial troubles. It was a crushing blow, and I knew the only way to keep from getting too sad was to keep moving. My most influential teacher at Purchase, Stephanie Tooman, highly suggested I begin studying at the Cunningham Dance Studio. I knew Carol, so I found out when she was teaching and showed up to her class. I enrolled in the work-study program over the summer and took as many classes as I could. Finally, Robert Swinston, assistant to the choreographer at the time, invited me to take his class. I was still in school, but I spent as much time at the studio as I could. After a workshop with Robert, a spot opened up in the Company, which was filled by an understudy, which in turn opened a spot for me. A year and a half later, I was in the Company.



What’s it been like performing with the Company?

It only takes one viewing of Merce’s repertory to discover that dancing for him is not easy. The dances are extremely challenging on a technical level, and very open-ended on a performance level. I have to overcome huge technical obstacles in just about every dance, which, when accomplished, brings a great feeling of satisfaction. The downside is that these obstacles cannot always be surmounted. In many people’s opinions, the moment a dancer makes a misstep is the best part. How does the dancer react? What is the dancer’s immediate response? Those moments, while potentially terrifying and defeating to the dancers, are often the most exciting. The other factor, discovering who you are on stage, is what interests me the most. Merce never told me that at certain moments I was to act happy while at others I was to act sad. In fact, he rarely, if ever, commented on how one should behave on the stage. He knew that if his movement was danced as fully and precisely as possible, the rest would fall into place. He also chose people to work with whose instincts he trusted. All of his dancers make different choices. One can easily sense a disparity between the individual dancers’ energies on stage. Merce seemed to relish those differences. He was always looking for something new and different.



What can we expect from “Roaratorio”?

“Roaratorio” is a fantastic piece. There are many sections for the full Company, which was rare in his final pieces. The movements are often buoyant, quick, lively and exciting. There are many touching moments as well as masterful showings of wit. I find the piece well rounded and enjoyable to both watch and dance.



What are the best and worst parts about being a professional dancer?

I used to highly dislike warming myself up. It does not matter what you did yesterday or today, you will wake up stiff and cold tomorrow. I have recently been trying to find the joy in the repetition of dance. The Cunningham warm-up is very clear and all encompassing, and the more I do it, the more I get out of it. There are also the great benefits of travel. It is like having a tasting course of the world. When I am finished dancing, I will have the benefit of having explored different cities I may or may not want to reside in. I would say the single best part of being a professional dancer is when I find myself on stage, completely present and in the moment. I am on stage with people I love and respect, doing what I love to do most. The feeling of joy I get from that is indescribable.



Walt Disney Concert Hall is located at 111 S. Grand Ave., Los Angeles. For More information, visit merce.org.