Gillian Walsh, Taking Dance to a Still Place

Gillian Walsh, Taking Dance to a Still Place


Your recent works have been pretty minimal in terms of how much movement happens. Is that true for this new piece, too?

Yeah, I don’t like that much movement. When I look back on those pieces and what I was trying to achieve, I think about how part of me is trying to access dance in a non-optical way, to go toward something invisible with visible things.

Can you talk about the pushback to your previous work?

“Scenario” was really long and very still. People got mad: “You don’t look at the audience. You’re not doing things for them.”

This need to be pandered to is very disturbing to me. It’s never, ever what I want to see when I go to a show. I like being able to peer in and experience time in certain ways. I like long, droning pieces. I like minimalist work. I like abstract sound. These things are really nice to me.

Has the audience reception changed your approach?

I have a different sense of audience expectation now and how I need to frame things. Now I’m like, “I work with dance-based ideas and the perception of time,” because that’s very accurate and opens the door for something else.

So instead of coming to see dance, people are coming to see time.

Exactly. And it’s about dance, or something.

In what sense is “Moon Fate Sin” a liturgical dance?

We’re in a church, in a similar audience-performer setup. In a liturgical dance, the performers and audience are together in a space to be in contact with something else, something immaterial. It’s not about yourself and not about the audience; you’re orienting toward some other thing. I was interested in that as a conceptual framework; it fits the way I like to perform.

I know you love dance on TV, and I’m curious about that. It seems so different from your own aesthetic.

I love dance in contemporary American culture. I love “Dance Moms.” I love all of it. I’m so interested in people who connect to dance.

Dance Moms” is really extreme.

These people are doing crazy things to their bodies and their psyches, too. They probably won’t recover in a real way.

Even if you don’t train that hard, there’s a lot that happens to you in your formative years as a dancer, where people are talking to you about what you’re supposed to look like, how you’re supposed to embody yourself. There are so many sadomasochistic relationships that get created in dance and then also replayed and worked out in dance.

In a way that’s why it’s hard to leave.

We can’t leave it. So many times I’ve said, I’m done. I’ve got to go care about other stuff. And then I’m like, I’m ba-aaack.



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