maria gillespie      artistic director / choreographer


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choreographer / artistic director


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.




"Gillespie's growing repertory demonstrates
capacious gift
for idiosyncratic movement invention that showcases unpredictability
(both emotional and physical)
as it trades on the
dramatic implications of
kinetic extreme

-LA Times


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artistic director