As Beth Gill explained, making and performing dance typically happens in places of community. And her experience as the Herb Alpert Award in the Arts resident at The Sharon Disney Lund School of Dance was similarly communal, despite the fact that it was forced to happen remotely in the wake of a COVID surge.
During her week with CalArts at the end of January, Gill had an opportunity to interact with a range of undergraduate and graduate students. From helping to lead a creation and critique course for MFAs, to working with first-year BFA students in “Dance after 1960,” to participating as a special guest in a choreography and performance lab, Gill got a full helping of what the school has to offer.
As a BFA graduate from the Tisch School of the Arts at New York University nearly two decades ago, Gill can see herself in many of the students that she worked with at CalArts. And while she may have a reputation among some as an artist who is fiercely original and unafraid to challenge her audiences, Gill says that her experience as a young artist was not so clearly defined.
“It’s interesting to hear that from an outside perspective,” she said. “Because my internal reality was fraught with so much anxiety about what I was doing. I know that for me, some of that bravery that I have been able to show as an artist came from the bravery that I witnessed from the artists who were around me.”
For Gill, one of the great advantages of schools like CalArts is that students are often encouraged to pursue art that pushes boundaries rather than to simply carry on the traditions of the past. “The art that is of value is often the art that challenges,” she said. “It would be so fantastic if I were able to provide some of this perspective to the students over the week that I was there.”
With a Guggenheim, Doris Duke Impact, and multiple Bessie Awards among her many accolades, Gill’s work has typically placed a heavy emphasis on aesthetics and the pacing of time. “I’m trying to create an experience that is authentic to me,” she explains. “And the way that I prioritize the visual experience of my works is a real entry point for viewers.”
With her residency at CalArts, as well as her experience teaching dance as an adjunct faculty member at Sarah Lawrence College, Gill hopes to be able to pass along some of her hard-earned knowledge and experience to the next generation of artists.
“I want dance to continue to receive the energy and freshness and new ideas of new generations, and I think it always will.”
– by Greg Houle