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Review 1, 1-20: The Whisper in the Wilderness
Waltzing and Listening with Margie Gillis
By Angela Jones
Copyright 2004 Angela Jones
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NEW YORK -- Margie Gillis
is the reason I dance and choreograph. When I first saw her at 18,
my path detoured far away from the direction I'd been going. I saw
for the first time that dance could touch people in a real way and
communicate subtleties of emotion that words do so inadequately.
Over the past 13 years, I have seen her perform five other times
-- most recently Saturday night at the Joyce -- spent an afternoon
in her kitchen talking to her and taken class from her. All have
had a profound effect on me in different ways.
As we both get older,
it has been an interesting process to see how Gillis's work has
changed and how my observing eye has changed. How each show affects
me personally is like having an artistic compass that helps me measure
where I am, where I am going, and where I have been. The one thing
that never changes is that she always puts all of herself into what
she does, which never ceases to inspire me. However, it is interesting
to note that I can't help but have a certain nostalgia for her earlier
work. Each one was a gem, clearly structured: clear characters,
clear arcs ending with clear statements. Her works in the Joyce
concert are far more experimental and exploratory but somehow seem
to lack definition. For example, though "Elimination" and "A Complex
Simplicity of Love" are polar opposites in terms of ambience and
feeling, they both repeat a lot of similar gestures at a similar
tempo, but then suddenly the pieces end, and we are in the same
place we started. They are a real contrast to "Waltzing Matilda"
(1978), revisited on this program and which just carries us along
the journey of this child/woman where hope finally dares to make
itself known. Through "Breathing in Bird Bone" again seemed to be
a bit repetitive in tempo and gesture, I did appreciate its humor
and characterization. Gillis's final triumph was "What the Wind
Whispers," echoing the earlier work "Mara," only the woman is older
now, more cognizant and in control of her hair, her dress, and the
way she presents herself.
Gillis comes through
New York City like a breath of fresh air, daring to show emotion
and real vulnerability to people who are just waiting to eat artists
alive. I appreciate her humanity and authenticity both on stage
and off, unique in the performing arts world. Her presence somehow
reminds me I have to keep answering those eternal questions: Why
do I dance and choreograph in the first place? What did that 18-year-old
see and gravitate so intensely to -- that unspoken thing that I
want to show to others?
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