Maria Gillespie is the choreographer
and artistic director of the Los Angeles-based contemporary dance
company, Oni Dance. She founded Oni Dance in 2005 and was selected as one of Dance Magazine's "Top
25 to Watch" (2005). Soon after she was awarded the 2005 Lester Horton
Award for best female performance in her evening length dance
Bandits at The Getty Center. Gillespie's dances... "ricochet between
vulnerability and strength with razor-sharp shifts in intensity and
intent" (LA Times). An artist who thrives on improvising,
developing, accumulating and interpreting movement, Gillespie's
choreography is a seamless blend of classicism and supple, grounded
quirkiness. Originally from Nashville, TN, she studied at the School
of Nashville Ballet and performed with the company. She received her
BFA in dance from SUNY Purchase in 1993. At Purchase, she studied under Neil Greenberg, Kevin Wynn, and Sarah Stackhouse. As a member of the Purchase
Dance Corps, Gillespie performed choreography by Charles Weidman
and Lin Hwai-min of Cloud Gate Dance Theater. Upon graduating in
1993, she formed 86 NYLON, a collaborative trio whose choreography
was presented (93-95) by Dixon Place, Movement Research, Gowanus
Arts Exchange, and Next Stage Company.
Since moving to LA in 1996, Ms. Gillespie's choreography has been
presented at The Ford Amphitheater, The Getty Museum, the Roy and Edna Disney/CalArts
Theater (REDCAT), UCLA's Department of World Arts & Cultures, The
Fowler Museum, Highways Performance Space, The Electric Lodge, Cal
State Long Beach, The Brand Library & Arts Center, The Fountain
Theater, The Met Theater, LA Dance Invitational, SOLA Dance
Festival, and the Dance Moving Forward Festival, as well as in New
York City at Joyce SoHo (2007 & 2008), International Dance Festival, Colorado and Tokyo, Japan (2004). Her choreography has been
commissioned by The Getty Center, and she has been commissioned for choreographic residencies at Scripps College, Pomona College, Santa
Monica College, and Cal State Long Beach dance departments. Her dance film, Saliendo, shot on Super 8, was selected for the Local Makers Screening in Dance Camera West.
Locally, she has enjoyed
and been inspired by working and performing extensively with Victoria Marks and Helios Dance
Theater and additionally with David Rousseve, Holly Johnston, Joe Goode's "As Beauty Subsides" Project, and String
Theory Ensemble. Noted as a "charismatic, mighty performer with a
distinct vision" (Victoria Looseleaf, LA Times), she is a four time
Lester Horton Award winner (2002, 2203, 2005). She is the honored
recipient of grants from The Durfee Foundation (2002, 2007) and The James
Irvine Foundation Grant, Dance: Creation to Performance (2004). Ms.
Gillespie has received critical acclaim in several publications
including, The LA Times, The New York Times, The Village Voice, and
Dance Magazine. A recent review describes: "Gillespie's growing
repertory demonstrates a capacious gift for idiosyncratic movement
invention that showcases unpredictability as it trades on the
dramatic implications of kinetic extremes" ( LA Times).
An adjunct professor at UCLA's Department of World Arts & Cultures from 2001-2008, Gillespie has also been a guest instructor at CalArts, Loyola Marymount University as well as at other universities and for dance companies throughout Southern California. An esteemed teacher of contemporary modern technique, she regularly offers master classes publicly and has been a guest artist teacher at NYC’s Dance New Amsterdam. She led and hosted a weekly community modern class in Venice, CA for the past 11 years and hopes to start that again soon.
Currently she is an MFA candidate in choreography at UCLA, where she continues to teach and is the recipient of The Forti Family Fellowship, The Mo Austin Scholarship, and The Graduate Diversity Scholarship. This June, Oni Dance will premiere two works in the company’s San Francisco debut at CounterPULSE.