Nurturing = Demanding

Bradon McDonald talks about professionalism, Mark Morris, and divine discontent

Two words Bradon McDonald often uses together are nurturing and demanding—but then he thrives on challenge. Perhaps that’s why he’s having so much fun dancing for the famously exacting Mark Morris, whose company he joined in 2000.

The dance competitions of McDonald’s youth, growing up in Lowville, New York, taught him valuable lessons—don’t stop when something goes wrong, be ready when your name is called, you won’t win every time. But at 15 he discovered modern dance, at the New York State Summer School for the Arts. Immediately McDonald felt at home. Modern dance provided the missing link between his two loves—visual art and competition dance.

In 1997, McDonald graduated from the Juilliard School—competitive, close-knit, grueling—and Carla Maxwell offered him a job with the Limón Company. Previous experiences had given him professionalism, but Limón forged a professional dancer. Three years later, McDonald saw the Mark Morris Dance Group live for the first time.

McDonald auditioned for MMDG and again felt at home—Morris’s acute musicality added another layer to the synthesis McDonald saw in modern dance.

Today McDonald is a man who loves his job. The pleasure of bending his brain and body around the specificity and stylistic range of Morris’s work is deepened by its welcoming feel for audiences.

“The better you get at Mark’s work, the easier it looks to the audience,” he said. “They think, ‘I want to do that.’”

MMDG’s touring schedule puts McDonald on the road half the year, but in March, he will have the unusual luxury of a month in the same city with his boyfriend of 11 years, bass-baritone Joshua Winograde, who will be singing at City Opera. The couple share an apartment here, yet they spend two months a year traveling to join each other in strange cities.

“It doesn’t seem like that much work because I love him,” McDonald said, shrugging. “It’s what it has to be.”

Post–dance career, McDonald thinks of being a designer

“I like making handbags because they’re very useful,” he said, fingering a handsome black dance bag embroidered with criss-crossing lines. “They’re tangible. You can take them home with you. Unlike dance.”

But for now, every cell seems to yearn toward the intangible joys of performing. Lowville, NYSSA, Juilliard, Limón, and MMDG have nurtured McDonald by never allowing him to stagnate or settle.

“I enjoy the level I’m dancing at, but I’m also not content,” he said, grinning. “I’m happy now, so I stop where I am? To me, that wouldn’t be happiness.”

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