Face to Face: Making Waves
Gallim Dance partners with Dancewave in Brooklyn
Wild, theatrical, kooky—Andrea Miller’s work has sparked a lot of interest in American dancegoers since she first brought her flair to New York. After working with Israel’s Batsheva Ensemble, she founded Gallim Dance (Hebrew for “waves”), creating movement influenced by Gaga, an improvisation technique pioneered by Ohad Naharin, artistic director of Batsheva. Since Gallim’s inception in 2007, Miller has received a broad range of commissions, from Ballet Hispanico to K-Swiss, and she frequently sets work at colleges, including her alma matter, The Juilliard School.
In 2011, Gallim moved into its own space in Brooklyn, and in the spring it will team up with neighboring Dancewave, a school that provides pre-professional dance training to an economically and culturally diverse community.
Students from the most advanced of Dancewave’s three troupes will take class and learn repertoire from Miller, and a handful of students will receive individual coaching and mentorship from company dancers. Miller hopes the inaugural year of partnership will result in a more permanent connection between Dancewave and Gallim.
Dance Teacher: Your company is still so young. Why concentrate on education now?
Andrea Miller: There’s one boy who has been at Dancewave for three years. He sneaks away to every rehearsal and performance and his parents don’t know—they have never seen him dance. And he’s incredible. This kid could be a professional and get scholarships and financial aid to college. But instead, he joined the navy because it was his only idea of how he could pay for school. Some of these kids feel like dance is a fundamental part of their lives, but they’re not getting support at home. We want to look at closing the gap between high school and college dance education, so they can pursue this beyond Dancewave.
DT: Do you enjoy working with students?
AM: I love it! It’s exciting to see somebody develop a passion. I get really motivated when the kids start to self-teach and figure it out for themselves, whether that’s discovering that passion or figuring out how to do a turn. They become an unstoppable engine, and that’s really exciting to me.
DT: Do you and your company mem-bers have experience in teaching?
AM: I got thrown into it when I was in Israel. I organized open workshops and later, looked for more organized ways of teaching. At first it was to increase my income, but I just loved it. I like the mental game—learning who’s in the room and what their needs are. It improved my dancing. And it was wonderful to see that dance could mean more than just my own personal progress.
My dancer Caroline Fermin directs the educational arm of Gallim. She has done a lot of work with kids and has a huge passion for it. Together we’ll lead classes—not all Gallim dancers will be involved at first. Training my dancers to teach class and repertory is a slow and intensive process. I have them assist me when we teach master classes on tour, and I give them feedback on how each class went. We’ll also train with someone at Dancewave before my dancers begin their one-on-one mentoring.DT: What’s the greatest challenge in working with high school students?
AM: Kids this age aren’t as open to my movement at first. It doesn’t matter who I am or what I’ve done, they don’t care. They already have an idea of their values—what they feel strongly about and what their teachers have said about dance. Some feel like they were born for my movement. “Finally, I’m doing something crazy!” Others feel very uncomfortable to act so goofy and raw. It’s a constant negotiation. It’s about the chemistry in the room.
DT: How will this new home allow you to further your educational programming?
AM: When you’re just teaching two-week workshops, you’re doing whatever you need to be supportive at whatever level the students are in their training. That’s fine and we’ll continue to do that, but I want to be involved in something that’s a larger investment in the dancers. I took class between 9 and 18 at the same studio, and it shaped my life. DT
Photo by Emily Terndrup, courtesy of Gallim Dance