Margie Gillis dances the human experience. Undulating naked in a field of billowing grass in Lessons from Nature 4, or whirling in a sweep of lilac fabric in her signature work Slipstream, her movement is free of flashy technique and tricks, but driven and defined by emotion. "There's a central philosophy in my work about what the experience of being human is," says Gillis, whose movement style is an alchemy of Isadora Duncan's uninhibited self-expression and Paul Taylor's musicality, blended with elements of dance theater into something utterly unique and immediately accessible. "I want an authenticity," she says. "I want to touch my audiences profoundly and deeply."
Kim DelGrosso, Jana Monson and Sheryl Dowling (Photo by Kim Raff)
Maybe it's the mountain air, the golden sunshine or the alpine elevation. There's just something about Utah that makes it an astonishing source of outstanding dancers, from ballroom and TV stars like Derek and Julianne Hough to ballerina Whitney Jensen.
To uncover the secrets of Utah's success, Dance Teacher turned to three of Utah's most influential studio owners in the Salt Lake City area: Jana Monson of Creative Arts Academy to the north in Bountiful, and, in southerly Orem, Kim DelGrosso of Center Stage Studio and Sheryl Dowling of The Dance Club.
These women have carved out unique niches in the region's incredibly crowded market. ("There is, honestly, I kid you not, a dance studio on every corner of where my studio is," DelGrosso says.) They consistently turn out some of the state's top talent while always focusing on helping kids develop self-esteem and maturity, as well as artistry. Here they share business perspectives, their personal philosophies—and some insight into Utah's dance magic.
Luna Dance Institute's co-directors Patricia Reedy (left) and Nancy Ng. Photos by Kathryn Rummel
In a sunny studio in Berkeley, California, just a stone's throw from San Francisco Bay, the dancers in Nancy Ng's modern-improvisation class are carving the air with their arms and legs, rolling and slithering across the floor and leveraging their torsos into off-kilter balances. Their choreography is inventive, nuanced, even sophisticated—yet these artists are just 7 to 10 years old. They are students at Luna Dance Institute, where co-directors Ng and Patricia Reedy hope to effect a sea change in the way children learn modern dance.
“I ask them to be intentional," Ng says after class. “The only thing that was set was their beginning place and their end place; how they were going to do anything in between was up to them." If her approach seems unusually democratic, that's entirely the point.