Choreographer Amy Miller Creates New Work During Winter Term
Feb. 11, 2013
Sabrina Paskewitz Drew '15
In January of 2013, the Oberlin Dance Department welcomed dancer and choreographer Amy Miller to campus for an ongoing workshop during winter term. Twenty-six students came together spending their winter mornings in a contemporary technique class with Miller, while sixteen students also worked to create a piece entitled Distill for the Oberlin Dance Company concert in May.
Despite being based in New York, Amy Miller has been a part of the Northeast Ohio dance community for over twenty years. She is currently in development of an evening length work to be performed at Gibney Dance in New York, in collaboration with the renowned string quartet Ethel and Cleveland Arts Prize winner composer Ryan Lott (alias Son Lux).
Miller’s connection to Oberlin also extends beyond the recent workshop. Amy has had an ongoing collaboration with Peter Swendsen, a composer and Oberlin College professor in the TIMARA program. The two have brought work to New York City’s Scandinavia House, Gowanus Arts in Brooklyn, and Cleveland’s GroundWorks.
“Absolutely amazing,” described second year Dance major Julia Sheppard of the experience studying with Miller. “Amy’s movement is dynamic and inspiring and her energy in class and in choreographing motivates us all to work our hardest,” she added. “It has been a pleasure to work with her.”
Winter term is a unique opportunity for focused study and collaboration. It gave Amy and the dance students six hours a day of intensive work, which allowed for “more progress and more focus,” says Miller.
Madeleine Klein ’15, agreed with her. “This set-up allows for structured collaboration and a lot of inspiring interactions with my peers. The schedule of winter term allows for relaxed progress. I’ve really enjoyed working on this project.”
Miller is familiar working with emerging dancers. She is a founding member and artistic associate of Cleveland-based GroundWorks DanceTheater, and has also worked with Cleveland’s Dance/Theater Collective, Cleveland State University, Bowling Green University and the University of Akron.
When asked about her experience with Oberlin students, Miller emphasized how impressed she was. With workshop participants coming from different class years, majors, and dance experiences, she noted strong similarities throughout. “Everyone is curious and wants to be there,” she described. “Everybody says ‘yes’ to taking chances and trying new things, which gives energy to the work.”
With the added goal of putting together an original piece to be performed in May in Oberlin’s Hall Auditorium, the group jointly set out to craft choreography for the piece.
The first week was spent completing tasks for the group as laid out by Miller. The individual ideas could then be formed, reshaped, and put in any order moving forward. Through this period of “play,” Miller recalls an abundance of laughter and energy.
“It’s an extremely collaborative process,” said AJ Palacio, a third year student with a minor in Dance. “We take from Amy and give back our own material which is transformed by her, and then it starts all over again.”
The second week saw the process shift away from exploration and onto making choices, moving to what Miller described as focusing on “what [the dance] should be, rather than what could it be.”
Creating a piece with sixteen dancers you have never worked with (and who have never worked together) can seem daunting to some. Miller’s response upon realizing the feat? “If you don’t know it’s hard, you just do it.”
Distill, with music by Peter Swendsen will be performed May 3rd and 4th at the Oberlin Dance Company concert in Warner Main.
Sabrina Paskewitz Drew is a second year student from Cleveland, Ohio. Intending to major in Mathematics and minor in Dance, she is passionate about arts and community.