Andrea Miller | Interview
Andrea Miller wants to get off the phone. “I’m so sorry. Can I call you back?” she asks. “I’m just finishing up a meeting.” The artistic director of Gallim (pronounced “Gal-eem”) rings me a couple of minutes later. The Brooklyn-based choreographer and former Batsheva dancer seems busy a lot these days, as her star continues to rise with each new tour and performance with her five-year-old company. We talk about her upcoming show at the Dance Center of Columbia, her choice in music and whether she'd ever consider a move to Chicago.
I saw that K-Swiss ad that Gallim did on YouTube.
Gosh, that was, like, in 2007.
In the ad you said it’s the perfect time for modern dance to “come back to its original intention.” What did you mean by that?
I was disappointed with the dance world at that particular moment.
I felt that there was an addiction to the visual form of it. It sort of took over its potential as a communicator and an instigator.
Are you gravitating toward any type of movement now?
I’m committed to sweat. I love physicality. In all my work I’m going to use a lot of energy and physicality. The virtuosity of the body is something that’s important to me.
I saw on your Facebook profile that one of your “activities” is professional wrestling.
Yeah, I love wrestling. I love almost all sports, but I like wrestling a lot.
That would make sense, in terms of the physicality you were talking about.
I like athleticism. It’s important to have a need or a want, a goal. I think that’s something that I bring to my dance. In dance, you have to want each movement that you’re doing.
Your dad is Jewish-American. Being part Jewish, did you feel any special cultural significance when you were dancing with Batsheva and living in Tel Aviv?
I had the extreme sort of differences in my life. I was raised in Salt Lake City, Utah. The belt population—except for a little bit—was Mormon. I was, like, the only dark-haired girl in my class. I probably looked a little swarthy. My mom converted to Judaism, I became kosher, and my sister became a rabbi. Then I went to Israel and everyone was eating, like, bacon, ham-and-cheese breakfast sandwiches. I was shocked, like, what’s going on?! I loved it. I learned what it means to be Israeli. I felt very at home there.
I read in an article that you refer to your inner voice as “the Diva.”
That was for one piece of mine, yeah. She came in and she left, but she’ll come back probably.
When the time is right?
[Laughs] Yeah, right when she’s supposed to. She’ll find the spotlight.
You’ve talked about Blush, the piece you’re bringing to [the Dance Center of Columbia College Chicago]. You said when creating the piece that you were going through a period where you didn’t feel strongly about things, that you were in a “neutral zone.” How so?
I think I was having a little bit of my first existential crisis. I couldn’t understand where to source happiness. I didn’t understand how I was going to be able to source that for a lifetime. It was kind of daunting. I basically stayed in this place where I didn’t know how to, or if I should, or could, or would, or wanted to. I basically became lazy at the idea of trying to be happy. It’s not like a well where you just take out water, and then it’s empty and done. I didn’t understand that [happiness] is a place that you invest. It’s like a fertile ground, and you just invest in it, a little bit, little seeds and it will bring a lot of flowers. It’s because you start putting your hands into the dirt, and that’s just what you have to do.
It seems like dance pulled you out of that a little.
It healed me. That’s why I’m obsessed with sweat; investing, finding something interesting, even if it’s just how your pinkie moves. Maybe sweat isn’t going to happen from that, but at least there’s going to be some motion, some heat, opening of doors, a lot of possibilities to explore.
You cut some interesting music for Blush, like Chopin and electro/punk. How do you decide what music you’re going to use?
I change the music a lot, which is really nice because you can get attached to the feelings of [one type of] music. Maybe it has a certain drone to it. Then I put on something very melodic. The dancers are so talented that they’re able to maintain that feeling of the drone, then they start incorporating some romantic melodies, and now I’ve got something that’s a combination of a drone and a melody. Then we change the music to be super rhythmic, so by the time they’re dancing the piece, it’s developed some dimensions.
You were commissioned to do Blush for Hubbard Street II. Did you find any special inspiration from the Second City?
The original movement started in Chicago. Then I brought it home and built it, then I went back to Chicago and made a duet with Hedwig Dances and then I added that duet to Blush to make it bigger. That duet was a huge inspiration from the Second City because my mom and my stepdad met in Chicago. He had passed away not too many years before I went to Chicago. [My mom] told me a lot of beautiful stories about how they met. She took me to different places where they walked and talked. The duet ended up becoming a story about dealing with death. I dedicated it for him. The Second City is resting right there in the piece.
Gallim got a nice nod from Alastair Macaulay at The New York Times. That’s an achievement in and of itself.
Yeah, we’ve had a hot-and-cold relationship with reviewers from the Times. I appreciate a lot of Alastair’s candidness. I was glad that he had a happy experience.
Would you ever consider relocating to Chicago?
[Laughs] I think you got a Brooklyn girl here, but you will not be able to hold me back from going to Chicago. I love Chicago. I’d be happy to perform and spend time there any day.