The grace and gaga of Andrea Miller's dance

by Dance

Last week, Dance Program Spring 2013 Artist-in-Residence Andrea Miller visited Harvard to teach a master class and select participants for her Wintersession intensive. Maya Rotmensch '14 attended. Her experience dancing with Miller is recorded here.

Ever since it was first announced, many of us in the Harvard dance community have been anxiously looking forward to Andrea Miller’s master class. By the time Christine Bennett, assistant dance director, finally walked into the studio to introduce Miller and Caroline Fermin, a member of Miller’s award-winning company Gallim Dance, I could barely contain my excitement.

Miller has been awarded many titles, including the 2009 Princess Grace Foundation Fellowship in Choreography, 2010 Princess Grace Foundation USA Works in Progress Award, and 2012 Princess Grace Special Project Award. But perhaps even more remarkable than her long list of achievements is her down-to-earth attitude. From the moment the class started, her passion for movement was infectious and every dancer attending could see that she really cared. She wanted us to get a taste for her unique blend of athleticism, classicism and that elusive something extra.

While it was clear that Miller draws inspiration from her strong background in modern technique and Gaga movement, she also went further to develop a unique style, distinctly her own, driven by imagery and visceral feeling. "Think of what it feels like when you don’t get any Christmas presents," she said, "or what it feels like to have sand pouring through your body. That is the movement I want to explore."

I must admit that up until that moment I had no cause to examine these feelings in a dance studio, but to my amazement, when I looked around the room, every dancer made a nearly identical motion to fit her description. The visceral imagery Miller used in her teaching infused our dancing with that emotion-driven "extra" component that so many artists struggle to find, without compromising the high proficiency in dance technique needed to express the full range of her choreography. With a lexicon as broad as the range of human emotion, I am sure we have barely scratched the surface of Andrea Miller’s approach to movement, but her class gave us a small taste that left me hungry for more.

[Caption: Caroline Furman (center) of Gallim Dance (Andrea Miller's company) leads dancers in Andrea Miller's master class. Photo by Liza Voll.]

[Caption: Andrea Miller (center) in her workshop at Harvard. Photo by Liza Voll.]