maria gillespie      artistic director / choreographer


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What is a dangerous body? 10 dancers lined up, overlapped, & covered--does the grotesque elicit disgust or a compulsion to look closer?  Exquisite.Corpse presents bodies and their boundaries as exquisite but malleable structures. This dance imagines how the body is simultaneously banal, sublime, and gruesome and celebrates the body in all its states. The metaphor of the corpse signals a lullaby for the past, a peace with mortality, the pain of non-intimate proximity, and the beauty of loving the vanished. This is the third installment in a series of dance experiments culminating in this evening length premiere.  




Wasteland (arrival

Four strangers are thrown into a dirt-covered, torched dystopia. The dancers grapple with their past, present, limited resources, and obligatory new companions. They discover each other, try out new identities, and cling to their previous selves. After being thrown into the dance space, the individuals investigate the site, continued existence, and are relegated to contact with others of the same lot.  Their collaboration unearths the humor and the pathos that glue them together to comment on social dependence in troubled spaces. 






The Splendor of Gretel





La Hora de Salir

“La Hora de Salir” (2006) is an evening length dance piece that mines the physical and psychological mechanics of leaving. “La Hora de Salir” depicts a kinetic journey into the heart by way of the fearless and inquisitive body. By exploring the many facets of beginning, attachment, and departure, which form the cycles of life, “La Hora de Salir” unearths the underlying tranquility of solitude found along side change. This work combines theatrical elements of aerial/fabric work, set design, and featured segments of a dance-film shot in 8mm and projected on stage.






“Precipice” (2005), a quartet, creates an environment where four individuals investigate the unknown territory of change and transformation. The movement is determined, seeking, yet hangs to a cautious edge. In Precipice, the dancers’ momentum and persistent will to investigate is stunted by the sensation of drawing back before falling, either off the stage, into gravity, or to the ground. Dirt-covered, the dancer's hands cautiously seek new space. The dirt on their hands can be viewed either as a residual from clinging to an edge of familiar ground or as the act of getting dirty with experience. With movement that hovers with both tension and release on the fine line between advancing and losing ground, Precipice is a bold and striking work that suggests the territory of a drastic transformation cannot be circumvented.




"Firma" (2005) is a quartet that is an expression of the individual mark a dancer leaves on choreography. Translated as “signature”, it is quite accurately a signature of the choreographer, a self-portrait through the bodies of her dancers, and an affirmation of the will to score one’s mark on the world. This dance considers the voice of the soloist against that of the ensemble. Each dancer completes their solo with an improvisation while speaking in their native or borrowed language, Vietnamese, Spanish, French, and in this case, the choreographer chose Polish. It is set to a collage of French Baroque gamba music. Firma can be seen as a fossil of the psychic remnants within the body and allows the dancer to be an emulation and hybrid of past experiences.




Visitation (2005) is a mingling of singular movement languages developed between the collaboration of the two original dancers. This dance celebrates the union created when two individuals join into a shared physical experience.



“Imperfection/Unsung” (2004) In this dance, I am investigating the physicality of need and desire with six dancers. Through solos, intersections, and duets, the manifestations, memories, and experiences that we embody from our own experiences with passion become a glance or comment can send the body a memory replayed over and over in your head becomes distilled into a sweetly exaggerated experience. "Imperfection/Unsung" seeks to uncover, expose, and exalt the rawness and honesty of human need. Found in some state of or need for affection & companionship, the performers drift and burrow into and out of interactions. Knocked over by sensation, left to channel the momentum of its action, then rampaging again, the heart becomes a resilient feature; ordinary in function and exquisite in scope.



Prologue of an Altered Day

“Prologue of and Altered Day” (2004) is a duet originally for two women that exposes the conflicting entanglement of dependency and a need for solitude through luscious partnering work and intensely weighted movement. The two intricately knotted individuals struggle with the complex timing in any partnership…when to pilot and support vs. when to follow.



“Peak” (2004) is a premiere solo for Gillespie inspired by the Anne Sexton poem, “Song for a Red Nightgown”. The dancer boroughs into the layers of sexuality and beckons sensations that manifest in the sensual. This meditative solo unveils a woman at her ‘peak’, toying with seduction, submission, desperation and hunger. With her “…lyric fearlessness” (LA Times) Gillespie muses on the invisible and taboo side of feminine drive.




The Shape of Interruption

“The Shape of Interruption” (2003) is a lively, rambunctious quartet set to the tango music of Astor Piazolla, Osvaldo Pugliese, and Juan D' Arienzo. This dance toys with the way each performer interrupts the other … sometimes blocking, stopping, watching, distracting, or simply knocking into each other. Two women and two men lure, launch at, and pummel each other with idiosyncratic demands, all in the attempt to get closer to one another. Each dancer scrambles to regain their composure after the humorous results from their misguided passions.



Sync Through, Revel Two

“Sync Through, Revel Two” (2003) is a male duet that honors masculine strength and it’s intoxicating allure. The vocabulary for this piece arrived from a study of classical masculine beauty and archetypal strength. Insinuating Michelangelo’s David, Rodin’s sculptures, Nijinsky’s roles as The Faun and The Spectre, and matadors, wrestlers, fathers, the movement inhabits the extremes of rigid strength and supple articulation. This work explores what is commonly thought of as masculine or feminine movement; drawing attention to the gender and/or androgyny the performers find by manipulating this vocabulary between the two men.



“Chronic” (2002) is an intense and far-flung quartet that navigates through the cyclical manifestations of chronic pain and anesthesia. The performers absorb, attack, resist, or envelope the movement. The dance moves through moments of physical restriction, relentless attempts to dominate the body, and succumbing to some tactile version of anesthesia. “Chronic” is a simultaneous catharsis from and immersion into the body. This piece exemplifies my development of a “concept piece”, in which the movement vocabulary is itself the landscape, creating an environment that is ethereal and otherworldly. “Chronic” offers high emotional content as well as meticulous awareness of form & structure. The music is an original guitar composition by Max Duncan.



“Merge”, (2001) is a duet set to the music of Albinoni and Handel. This terpsichorean duel juxtaposes graceful control of one dancer against turbulence of the other to examine the boundaries of each. This duet begins with sequential solos in which each dancer marks her territory with movement that initially defines her image. Eventually their dances collide and the duet becomes a sparring match in which the women reverse roles.



To Want to Have to Hold

 “to want to have to hold”(2001) (to jazz pieces by Coleman Hawkins, Duke Ellington) This is a dance that embraces the physical quirks of a partnership, from smothering rolls to tender embraces.


Wakatta/coming in clear

“Wakatta/coming in clear” (2000) a determined, slightly compulsive solo about the individual accumulating and processing what is foreign to the self and making it familiar. Using strong gesture content, Ms. Gillespie weaves the structure, repetition, and rigidity of goal-oriented tasks with the underlying emotional drive that fuels our movement. The original sound score is by Marcus Joseph.



“Hover” is an improvised solo to live prepared piano improvisation. Structure is based on that of a poem of the same title written by the choreographer. In another improvised solo, “Occiput, Gall Bladder, & Tibia”, the dancer is taking a live "road trip" through parts of the body that at one point have been challenged or weakened. These physical land markers become vessels of sudden stillness, centrifuges of mobility, and psychological stamps delicately strewn open.



Occiput, Gall Bladder, & Tibia

An improvised solo, “Occiput, Gall Bladder, & Tibia”, the dancer is taking a live "road trip" through parts of the body that at one point have been challenged or weakened.


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“A most inventive and compelling local dancer”

(Ann Haskins, LA Weekly)



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