A Conversation with Jodi Melnick

Jodi Melnick has trouble sitting still. At the end of this interview, she confessed that she’d been moving around in the studio while talking. “I’m holding the phone and sort of moving to find the words,” she said. This isn’t really surprising, given Melnick’s past and present dance life. After performing with companies—Twyla Tharp, Sara Rudner and John Jasperse, to name a few—she’s now enjoying a second career of sorts as a freelance artist, often performing as a soloist. This October, she will premiere Moment Marigold at the Brooklyn Academy of Music in New York City as part of the Next Wave Festival. Her new piece will have a bit of a twist, however: She’ll be dancing with two other women. But Melnick is careful not to refer to the piece as a trio; instead, she says, “I feel like we’re just three individuals working with someone who’s leading—which is me.”

On success “Don’t you remember the first time you really fell in love? You know, when you finally get the boyfriend and you know it’s going to work out? And then you realize nothing changed: You’re still the same, neurotic, freakazoid human being, miserable—you just have a great boyfriend. It’s kind of like that. Nothing’s changed.

Her choreographic lineage “I carry all this knowledge in my body: Going through Sara Rudner’s body, being with John Jasperse in his mind, Trisha [Brown]’s wildness and silvery, slipper movement. But I’ve never been in the studio and felt, ‘I can’t do that because it’s so of someone else.’ And if I ever did have that experience, it would be an absolute joy. Like, ‘Oh, I’m channeling that person.’”

On teaching “In the beginning, the teaching was more about me learning about my body and my dancing and my communication. And as I got older, in the last decade, it has really shifted. It’s not about me. It’s about the generosity that just happens naturally. I give it all away to my students. I just want them to have it all.”

How she works “Beginnings are always so interesting and devastating. Usually I’m alone in the studio, with an image, trying not to make edits or judgments. Just developing movement. For this work [Moment Marigold], my jumping-off point is the act of dancing, the love of physical expression—who knows how much longer it’s going to be able to run through my body? So I’m trying to push myself physically. Not virtuosically, just being concentrated and keeping my intention.” DT

Training: BFA from Purchase College, SUNY

Performance/choreography:

Danced with Twyla Tharp, Sara Rudner, Susan Rethorst, Vicky Shick, Trisha Brown and John Jasperse; presented as a freelance artist by Dance Theater Workshop, American Dance Festival, Vail International Dance Festival and Fall for Dance Festival

Teaching credits: Adjunct professor at Barnard College

Photo by Stephanie Berger, courtesy of BAM

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