Solos With Co-Pilots

Altogether Different Ways of Dancing Alone

"Danny brings his expertise," says Gillis, "and I bring mine. There's an enormous amount of nonverbal communication that speaks volumes to both of us—it's subtle, coded, entire situations implied by the tilt of a head. We each bring a wealth of experience. We generate humor, which is freeing, and we take risks. There's also a generating of love."

That love is evident as Jackson watches Gillis, a figure who might have slid off an Edwardian cameo or out of a Burne-Jones illustration, run through her solos. He sits rapt as she dances to a song by Leonard Cohen, a Bach piano sonata, a recording of tuning-fork tones calibrated to mobilize a frozen shoulder.

Just when dancers' maturity crests, their bodies often begin to fail. The challenge is to keep a brilliant expressiveness alive on stage. Gillis dislocated her arm a couple of years ago, and while recuperating stepped into a rabbit hole in Scotland and broke her ankle. "Particularly with solo dancing, if you're going to survive, you have to be keenly interested in health," she says.

Margie Gillis (above) works with Daniel Jackson on her solo evening at the Joyce.
photo: Michael Slobodian
Margie Gillis (above) works with Daniel Jackson on her solo evening at the Joyce.

For Gillis, the psychology of a piece determines the architecture and method of creation. "If a piece is dreamlike, the process might be circular," she says. "Or it might be unwieldy. The inner landscape—the vision, if you will—creates the method."

How did working with Jackson change her process?

"I was suddenly in a room with someone else who had a similar desire for health, love, risk taking," says Gillis. "When I was younger, it was appropriate to be wild, savage. Now the question is, how can I manipulate energy? There are dances you can't do as a young person that I can do now. I'm interested in how my personal life can be a window to compassion, to a connection at a human level. The theater's natural place is catharsis, transformation, renewal. That's my business and my passion."

As to her future with Jackson, all options are open. Says Gillis, "We're not a recipe for anyone else, but we feel grateful to share it. We feel free to give in a very profound way."

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