Miguel Gutierrez, 30, got into contemporary dance while coming out as an AIDS activist in San Francisco. "Dance there was spirited, political, alivenot stupid stories, gender roles, and people smiling onstage," he says. "It was super-connected to the world."
His thick brown hair, dark eyes, and sculpted muscular body were revealed to many during his nude dances with the John Jasperse Company. Born in Flushing to what he calls "good strong Colombian parents," Gutierrez grew up in central Jersey, went to private school to "learn the ways of the white people," and hounded his parents to let him dance ballet and musical comedy. He studied briefly at Brown and NYU. Impatient with "ossified" dance programs, he left college for a job with San Francisco's Joe Goode Performance Group. Five years ago he returned to New York, moving to Bushwick in search of cheap rent, and landing in the same building where Jasperse rehearsedan "incredibly serendipitous" meeting that led to four years of work in Jasperse's troupe. "I'm so lucky. He's the combination of skepticism and experimentation that I needed in my life."
This season, during a long run of Gutierrez's first evening-length work at his home studio, dancers moved through his daring choreography, which confronted the audience directly and questioned performance limits. Gutierrez is now completing a final tour with Jasperse, while focusing on creating his own pieces. "Contemporary dancers take matters into their own hands. I know how to make something out of nothing. It's the body in space. I don't need $2 million to make a film. Dance is a performing art. If it doesn't happen now, it's not going to happen. I'm not Van Goghpeople can't discover my new form after I die."