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The work of the choreographer Andrea Miller emanates an awkward grace that recalls both the animalistic and undeniable humanity of those who live with questions, struggles, loneliness, love, the entire scope of human feelings. Her dancers physicalize this emotional landscape with feral intensity or indulge with loose-limbed ease or tremor with pent-up fury, and then effervescently float.
ICONS: What can you tell us about your choreography — how it looks and how it feels?
Andrea Miller: I focus on texture — the texture of a dancer’s skin, emotions, effort — where they’re located in the arc of their performance. I try to make that so heightened that as a viewer, you feel present in observing and collecting that information. I even hope that the experience of the performers transfers into the viewer’s body and makes those qualities of tension or release or sensuality or the things that are happening be felt and recognizable in the viewer’s experience, whether it’s things that they know or are unknown. It’s like a trance … I try to make something where you are gripped by what is happening, and it doesn’t release you until it’s over — for both the dancer and viewer.
ICONS: What inspires you as you begin the creative process?
AM: I would say that I always have a question in mind with a fantasy and a hope for what might be discovered. I’m like a dance detective who uses movement to try to answer this question, which is often existential or philosophical, centering around the existence and elemental ideas of humanity.
ICONS: Would you share a question that inspired a particular work?
AM: For one of my earliest pieces, “Blush,” my question was about happiness. When circumstances of life are not aligned to give you happiness, then what is left inside of you to try to summon happiness? Where does it come from if not circumstantial? How do you keep the flame of happiness on? In other words: What is the muscle of happiness? How do I access it? How do I build that muscle?
For “Whale,” I was thinking about love. When you think about love, beautiful things might come to mind. But to me in the idea of love, I think of something enormously beautiful, but at the same time, I think of the lack of love, the feeling of not having it, of betrayal, abandonment, or missing [love]. The question I was trying to understand is why love is such an elusive thing. Maybe it’s similar to happiness, but how can I just directly look at it, and examine it?
ICONS: Right after graduating from college, you moved to Israel to study with Batsheva Dance Company and then perform with Batsheva Ensemble for two years. How important has the imprint of that work been for your choreographic process?
AM: I was there at a very special time because Ohad [Naharin, the artistic director] was only about three years into his research with Gaga. I witnessed someone learning how to understand their approach to movement and how to codify it into ideas that could be repeated. Gaga itself was very interesting to me, but it was, even more, the methodology that was so influential for me. I learned to say: “Okay, here’s your imagination. It can be a moment of inspiration that you just splatter into the world, or it is something bigger about your philosophy on why we move.” That was interesting. The movement [process] I developed since also uses this guided improvisation as the base for what I do. While I use some Gaga words, I really have my own approach.
ICONS: What about Naharin’s concept of “the groove”? Has that influenced your process?
AM: What I’m interested in about the groove is different from what Ohad is interested in. What I experienced with the groove from Ohad was a very forward-thinking way to approach movement…. As young dancers in his company, we were going out every other night dancing, and we brought back some of that information and some of that relationship to popular dancing into a more rigorous and potentially elevated art space. I found this essential joy and relationship to music that made you move.
That was really interesting, but for me, the groove is an ancient, almost shamanistic, early form of self-expression... where we become both a tribe and an individual in this unspoken space in which the music is our temple. We know the basic prayer, which is like moving to the beat. But while we know the prayer, the actual person behind that prayer and the things they want, the things they’re chasing, and the things that they want to let go of or indulge in are that individuals in the room of the tribe, in the space of the collective. For me, [the groove] is much more ancient. Like an umbilical cord, I feel I have been researching and have tapped into it as if it has always been part of me. Now my understanding of this isn’t just circumstantial. This is actually tradition … from my cave grandmother.
ICONS: What do you wish you knew early in your career as you were beginning to create?
AM: I would say that I wish I had a little bit more patience and understood that I was part of a process, part of a continuum as an artist. [Creating] wasn’t going to be just this one moment. I kept thinking, “I’m going to have a breakthrough.” I thought there would be one moment that changes everything. I learned that you’re actually always in the process and you have to love the process. I just wish I had given myself a bit more sense of patience and encouragement.
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More About Andrea Miller:
Born in Utah, Andrea Miller attended early dance training classes with the University of Utah’s Children’s Dance Ensemble, and later, when her family moved to Connecticut, she studied with Doris Humphrey dancer Ernestine Stodelle.
Miller draws inspiration from her Latino and Jewish-American background — her mother is Spanish, her father, Jewish-American — and her works reflect that, sometimes specifically, while other times, intrinsically. She received her MFA from Juilliard, where she began to explore choreography, and shortly after graduation, she moved to Tel Aviv to study and dance with Israel’s Batsheva Ensemble. Upon her return to New York in 2007, Miller co-founded Gallim Dance.
A Guggenheim Fellow and the first woman named an artist-in-residence at The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, Miller has been commissioned by New York City Ballet, Martha Graham Dance Company, Ballet Hispanico, Bern Ballet, Abraham.in.Motion, The Juilliard School, Ailey 2, and NDT 2, among other international companies. For more information, go to https://www.gallim.org/
Photo © Anne Michele Mallory, Andrea Miller, portrait
Photo © Yaniv Schulman, Wonderland (2010), Choreography: Andrea Miller
Photo © Hayim Heron, Boat (2019 reconstruction), Choreography: Andrea Miller
Photo © Steven Schreiber, state (2018, commission for A.I.M), Choreography: Andrea Miller with the collaboration of the cast
Photo © Stephanie Berger, Stone Skipping (2017, site-responsive work for The Temple of Dendur at The Metropolitan Museum of Art), Choreography: Andrea Miller with the collaboration of cast
Photo © Jacob Jonas, Dancer with dancer (2018), Choreography: Andrea Miller
Photo © Jim Coleman, (C)arbon (2018, 4 gallery performance installation of movement, sculpture, and film at The Met Breuer), Choreography: Andrea Miller with the collaboration of cast
Creative Direction: Andrea Miller and Ben Stamper, Film: Ben Stamper, Sculpture: Eric Ehrnschwender, Costumes: Jose Solis
Interviewer: Lisa Traiger
Content Editor-in-Chief: Camilla Acquista
Research Associate: Charles Scheland
Dance ICONS, Inc., February 2022 © All rights reserved.