I wrote a little post about Linda Caldwell on instagram, and a few words about Sam Miller for an article in the Clyde Fitch Report, but for me their passings are linked. Linda passed away on April 22, Sam on May 3. She was 67. He was 65. Both such powerful figures in the dance field in different ways.
I don’t believe they’re in dance heaven, kicking up their heels together and talking about Joe Chaikin and Cambodian dance traditions. But I do believe they’ve left powerful energetic impacts, large enough for lots of us to draw from for years. Their powerful enthusiasms and passions and effectiveness and love. The way they held onto their former students for the long-term. I will have both of them with me as I start teaching again next semester.
Linda worked in Alabama, South Carolina, Poland, Wisconsin, Texas. Gathering people as she went.
She wore flowing clothes and laughed a lot. She would be so excited to meet you, yes you dear reader, and then she would tell the next person that she had just met the most wonderful, extraordinary person.
I loved her enthusiasm for all kinds of dance. I loved the way she used facebook as a way to celebrate her former students and her current students, along with all kinds of dance videos. She was free of snobbery in a way I admire and strive for.
She believed in me the way that usually only family does, that is, out of proportion to my actual talents or abilities. To have Linda Caldwell in your corner was a precious gift indeed.
When I wandered into the dance department at Texas Woman’s University, explaining that I might like to take a class or two, she gently coaxed me into doing an M.A., and then funneled me into the only graduate assistantship position that would make sense for me. When I think back to how difficult those semesters were, I’ve often wondered why I never thought about dropping out and adjusting my plan. I think Linda was the answer. She and the other faculty members at that special place made me feel like the field was big enough to include me.
Sam would kind of chortle in place. If you saw him delighted about something, it was hard not to share in his delight.
One time he gave me the advice, “just keep trying.” He refused to elaborate. Nothing else needed. He was a thinker for the long-term in a way I admire and strive for. He was a visionary who could make his visions come to pass. How rare, how wonderful!
I liked sitting next to him at shows. One time I saw him at Maria Hassabi’s show at MoMA and he had been present for a majority of the hours over the course of weeks of the exhibit. I learned: It’s ok to care this much. It’s ok to be shy. It’s ok to occasionally close one’s eyes. You can still be present with your eyes closed.
The last time I saw him was at Abrons, after Jaamil’s show at Realness. Four of us, all former students, were going to squeeze in a car and have a burger and a drink. We all said goodbye and left him upstairs, collectively marveling a little bit at his Sam-ness, as you had to each time you got to cross paths.