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Gallim helps students find artistic voice

BY JUSTUS FLAIR | APRIL 24, 2014 5:00 AM

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Liberal arts majors are constantly asked, “But what are you going to do with your degree?” usually accompanied by a slightly condescending, “That sounds cool, though.”

Some dance majors may have an answer to that question after this week.

Members of Gallim Dance Company, a group based in New York, have been on the University of Iowa campus since Monday visiting dance classes and meeting with students. The dancers will perform at 7:30 p.m. today and Friday in North Hall’s Space/Place to close out their weeklong visit. Admission ranges from $10 to $35.

“We’re going to try to give [UI dance students] an intimate experience of what it is like to be a company member at Gallim, which involves some movement information and dance classes,” said Andrea Miller, the artistic director and founder of Gallim. “We’re giving students the chance to experience movement they will actually see in performance, things from our repertory.”

That repertory is fairly extensive, much of it coming directly from Miller, a John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation fellowship winner.

“I founded [Gallim] because I was looking to create an opportunity for me to have a space to make work and to experiment with movement and dancers and art,” Miller said. “The goal was to collaborate with dancers and artists on work that I felt would be challenging and meaningful to me, but also to the audiences that would be sharing in it, to make challenging and relevant work.”

As she created work and kept moving forward, buzz began to grow, and Miller was able to capitalize on the success of her work and expand Gallim. That expansion included adding an educational arm to the company.

“That’s definitely become part of my goals, to share my work through the performance platform and to teach,” Miller said. “The movement language that I work in is a lot about making artistic choices as an individual, so we try to give students the experience to decide firsthand what their artistic voice is.”

Working with UI students is right up Gallim’s alley and part of the reason Hancher Programming Director Jacob Yarrow was interested in a partnership between the UI and Gallim. Yarrow, who said he has been following the work of Gallim for many years, was interested in the group’s pursuit to help find the artistic voice not just of dancers, but of other students as well.

“Dance students will learn about Gallim’s unique approach to movement and get the chance to work directly with company members,” Yarrow said. “And students in two entrepreneurial classes will meet with Gallim’s executive director [Max Hodges] to learn about the strategies they have used to become one of today’s hottest companies.”

Hancher Educational Programming Director Erin Donohue said she feels confident the visit will help students grasp what it takes to be part of a successful company.

“Students have the great opportunity to work closely with professional artists,” she said. “Some guest artists in the past have stayed in contact with students and have led to company jobs down the line for UI dancers. It gives dancers a broader view of what the field of dance is like.”

It may give a broader view, but Miller is not sure it gives a typical view, because she does not consider Gallim a run-of-the-mill dance company.

“We have an unconventional approach to the body, raising questions about beauty and strength and art,” she said. “We also have approachable work. Approachable in that I don’t abandon movement and dance as a big part of what we do, so I feel like we have a really nice balance between enjoying the sweat and the physicality of dance while also putting forward some concept and making the audience think about what they’re experiencing.”

That is what Miller is hoping will happen tonight when Gallim takes to the stage with two pieces, “Sit, Kneel, Stand” and “Pupil Suite.”

“ ‘Sit, Kneel, Stand’ starts pretty abstract and gets narrower and narrower and narrower before exploding back into abstraction. I think of it sort of like the particles in the universe, colliding together and expanding,” she said. “[‘Pupil Suite’] is more traditional, in the dance format. It has duets and trios and group sections that explore this really cool music that hopefully makes the audience wish they were dancing with us.”


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