If you ask Andrea Miller what inspires her to create contemporary dance pieces, she will speak eloquently in metaphors about the mission of her four-year-old company, New York-based Gallim Dance. She will speak of the "language" of dance, the "energy" of her choreography, the "soul" of a piece, and the "tools" that Ohad Naharin gave her when she studied the experimental Gaga technique in Israel during her three years with Ensemble Batsheva. She'll speak of the "vocabulary" that the Gaga technique — she thinks Nahrin would prefer to call it a "language" — gave her. This vocabulary helped her realize it was possible to "take what [she] had inside and put it outside." This realization intensified her interest in choreography.
She'll also be genuine, at the risk of sounding a bit insane (her words, not mine) and 'fess up to naming her inner voice "The Diva" and explain that The Diva always has something to say, and Miller must dance it out to hear.
"It's really like I can tell when she's talking," says Miller.
Miller connects with the world through dance. "I always try to find opportunities for my dancers to sing a song." Since every number tells The Diva's story, Miller is very present in all her pieces. However, she's also influenced by outside things: music, visual arts, film, news, and even conversations with friends.
Miller says Gaga gave her the tools to reach her own voice as a dancer. The "tools" she speaks of are creative processes that usually start with improvisation and the question, "How do you make movement?" Games like Marco Polo and Simon Says can be tools that allow dancers to access their imaginations, according to Miller.
Miller's I Can See Myself in Your Pupil premiered at Gallim Dance's debut performance back in 2007 at the Joyce Theater in SoHo, and it is chock-full of the language and energy Miller thrives on. Pupil is composed of a series of four- to eight-minute vignettes Miller created when she was dirt poor but was given opportunities to perform in different New York studios. When she found she had an entire evening-length performance slot, she packed the vignettes together to see what would happen and found they could all be part of a similar world. When we asked what The Diva was saying to her while she choreographed during that period, she responds matter-of-factly: "Explode."
Gallim Dance Company has already found a place in New York's downtown dance scene and has been described as "fiercely physical." One of the standout pieces from Pupil is called "The Awkward Struggle of Attaining Intimacy." When asked what spawned such a specifically titled dance, she says bluntly, "I was dating the wrong guy," then laughs.
But Pupil isn't just about dating the wrong guy. The "Awkwardness of Intimacy" supports all the random vignettes in the work, because, explains Miller, it's really just about making a connection with a bunch of people you don't know. Capturing the essence of The Diva and molding it into a language that can be communicated through dance is always at the heart of Miller's choreography.