Andrea Miller’s NYC company Gallim has been on my radar for years now.
Look at ’em.
This audition was held at Performance Works Northwest, which is really a glorified garage with some marley laid down. I say that out of love, by the way; it’s a lovely little converted space that satisfied the modern dancer in me. No mirrors or air conditioners, so it was a good space for esoteric movement.
The guy from Gallim, who I’ll call Austin, because that’s what I think his name was, is a Portland native who was home visiting. He taught a workshop a few days before the audition that I also attended.
It sounded like the audition was sort of a short notice sort of thing. I only heard about it about two weeks before it happened. As it turned out, Gallim had held an audition in New York but didn’t find anyone they liked, and since Austin was going to be in PDX, Andrea Miller asked him to audition there. This makes me think that Miller must be looking for something very specific, or perhaps she was unhappy with the type of dance that NYC dancers are doing now. New York companies don’t usually send feelers out to the smaller cities.
There was no audition fee, which I always appreciate, and it was overall very similar to the workshop I attended a few days prior. There were about twelve or thirteen or fourteen of us there, and everyone was a definite contemporary dancer; there were no ballerinas or hip hop or broadway peeps, but then again, this was the sort of audition you’d only hear about if you were looking for it.
We started with some general improvisation with Gaga-esque guidance. I was happy to be moving, and the atmosphere was ripe for sweating.
It was the sort of audition where you wrote a number on a piece of duct tape and stuck it to your shirt. On one hand, I usually do best in an atmosphere where we’re able to just show up and dance, but on the other hand, duct tape comes off your shirt when it soaks through with sweat, and then you have to wonder if they’ll remember you.
After the warm up, there was a section where we got into groups and moved improvisationally with three partners. I found myself in a good group of people who were all ready to support and take care of me if I got into a sticky situation; this was a nice reassurance that humanity isn’t so lost after all. If I can walk into a class and am able to be caught and held by people I’ve only just met that morning, there is hope in the world.
After that, we learned some repertoire. Austin taught us a solo from Whale, which you can check out here. He seemed like a cool dude, and he wasn’t trying to intimidate us or tell us that only the best of the best get to dance for Miller. He wasn’t the most skilled pedigogian, but he presented the movement in a way that we could all pick it up.
It was the standard contemporary dance sort of thing, using imagery and specific body part initiations. The music was there for atmosphere, and there were no counts. You were able to incorporate your own timing. As is customary for small spaces like this, the real challenge came in negotiating the space with the other dancers. There were moments when travel was necessary and space was needed to do some explosive kick-run-jumps.
The movement didn’t fit the Portland style necessarily, but the strength built up by those long, deep second positions came in useful. There was a lot of hip flexion and bad knee-to-foot tracking that was necessary to complete the movement. It was the sort of thing where a lot of the modern dance rules were broken, but you had to be a proficient modern dancer to complete the movement without injuring yourself.
As I mentioned, I was pretty sweaty, and, as usual, this presented its own problem. Floor work becomes more difficult when you’re slipping in a puddle of your own sweat. There was some really fun floorwork, for which I was very glad I brought kneepads, and a lot of the movement was risky. I liked it, but given the humidity and the heat, my enthusiasm sort of faded into an intense focus.
Dancing in the heat is always a challenge. I had gotten acclimated to the North Carolinian humidity that summer I spent at ADF, since there was no air conditioning in the Arc. That was the year I founded the famous #dancerswithoutairconditioners tag. Your body really starts to behave differently when you sweat out the majority of your internal moisture. I had to remind myself to take water breaks and not to run through the movement with all of my energy until it came time to video tape it.
Austin split us into groups of two and he video taped us so that the NYC people could take a look at us. I was nervous, but I was also so dehydrated that I was mostly just trying not to die.
After we had all gone through, doing the movement in pairs, we were given about fifteen minutes to come up with some choreography, which we then presented in small groups, which was again videotaped.
I tried to challenge myself to create material that I wasn’t overly comfortable with (I only fell down, like, once, for example) without trying anything too crazy. I felt good at this point, like I was able to pick up on the qualities demonstrated in the movement we’d been taught – risk, floorwork, interesting timing, using your gaze.
Since we also performed this in smaller groups, we were able to watch. I always enjoy watching people when they have to come up with come quick choreography, or else when it’s improvisational. Compared to the Royal Caribbean audition, it was night and day. Nobody was doing toe touches or the splits or any tricks. There were some bits of people’s work that I found drull or unoriginal, but overall, you could see that it was all genuine movement that they believed in. People did impressive things with their bodies, but it wasn’t in the blatant showing off sort of thing that the cruise liners want to see.
I felt at home at this audition, and it was a positive experience. I wonder how different it would be to audition in NYC for Miller herself, as I’ve heard different reports as to her temperament. Regardless, it was an enjoyable class sort of audition, and it made me grateful for my training. It was another example as to why it’s important to be able to work with partners and improvise in an audition; it’s not just enough to look at movement and copy it.