Arts.Advocacy+Wellness: "Daniel Gwirtzman - The Lecture"
Dancer-Choreographer Daniel Gwirtzman emerges into the genre of performance art and solo-show performance as he approaches the premiere of a new work, The Lecture. I had the fortunate opportunity to chat with the man behind the Art and here's what he shared:
Where are you from and where do you currently reside?
In beautiful upstate New York, Rochester. Really upstate, not what New Yorkers call upstate (and it's Westchester!). Rochester, on Lake Ontario, is a mix of four distinct vibrant seasons, and Niagara
Falls/Canada is an easy one and one-half hours away. I have lived in Washington Heights, where my family is originally from, for fourteen years. I love it here. It is home.
What started you on your path in the arts?
Gosh, that is inseparable from my DNA. I was born in twenty minutes and have always needed to move and dance. I definitely was born with the dance gene. My family nurtured this. My father lived in New York straight from college and saw Lucille Ball on Broadway inWildcat and Barbra Streisand in her debut as Miss Marmelstein in I Can Get It For You Wholesale. He studied dance. My mother is an artist. I was going to see shows from the earliest age. Specifically I began with Israeli folk dancing in the elementary grades, which I performed throughout high school. I was most fortunate, growing up in [second plug for] Rochester, as I had the opportunity to study with Garth Fagan Dance, a company I joined after college and toured with. My teacher Shelly Taplin, a vital member of Garth's company, encouraged me when my desires far outweighed my technical abilities. I was twelve, and her encouragement shaped my career.
Tell us a little more about The Lecture...Why The Lecture now?
Well The Lecture is about a lecturer. And he really likes to educate and to tell jokes and to illustrate his lectures. Generally, the interest is in thinking about how familiar the world of words is, and how foreign, for most people, the province of the body. Words are easy. We are able to create images based on words. Seeing movement, dance specifically, and concert modern dance even more specifically, presents a challenge to a general audience, who is looking for meaning. What does it mean? Or, I didn't get it. We've heard these before, countless times. The Lecture seeks to bring us to a place of abstraction, to see how closely words and movement intersect, and how separate they are from each other as well. It is to heighten our senses, to process both visually and aurally. And besides, everyone needs a good lecturing every now and then!
Speak a little about your dance aesthetic and Why the incorporation of Charlie Rose?
Well, Charlie is not incorporated per se, although I wouldn't mind if he was. The quality of his work and its varied content inspires me personally, and in this case, because of the subject material, professionally. The shows, in particular this year's commissioned series about the brain, are, as I have said for years, granola for the brain...My work is a combination of my diverse and eclectic background, fusing the pedestrianism of folk with the virtuosity of the modern dance (Graham, Fagan, Cunningham, Limon, Morris). A constant thread is recognizing people on stage, not dancers, not pawns or abstractions in space. Even when the work is abstract I want to see an animation in the dancer's face and spirit. People that have charisma and are expressive. Ultimately I am interested in sharing joy through the work we produce. If you laugh for a moment, or stop thinking about all the things we carry around in our brain all day, that is great.
What is your desired outcome from presenting this work right now?
Engagement with a broader audience. In celebrating fifteen years as a NYC choreographer, the Board recognized my need as a choreographer to reward the dancer that has been with me the longest...myself! If the show is liked, it will be an easy one to tour with! Especially if the venue has its own podium!
You danced with some pretty well-known dance companies, at what some people would consider the prime of your career, and you chose to change course create work for other dancers. Why?
I have always been dancing in the Company. I am increasingly taking myself out of the work so I can focus more as a choreographer and director. In terms of my prime, I feel as though I am in it right now, this moment, a period of a few years, where the physical and the intellectual truly cross. We always mature as we age. Unlike in other fields, as a dancer, one is denied the ability to continue one's work/livelihood/craft as the understanding deepens. So I haven't really changed courses. I've just made it harder to let the performing be the sole focus. But is has always been primary. I identify most as a dancer still at this point in my career.
How long did it take you to get to the stage of creating solo-work and more specifically the latest piece, a solo for yourself?
The Lecture has been brewing for a long time. I like my tea strong (but not bitter!). I started sketching physical
material to the concepts this past winter.
What are your future hopes and aspirations as a choreographer?
To have many new opportunities and challenges over a lifelong career. I hope to bring the Company to a more visible platform. We have a lot of terrific teaching and performing programs. There are numerous aspirations to collaborate with artists across platforms.
In these trying economic times, do you struggle in keeping your company afloat?
Yes absolutely. But the thing about running a dance company is that even in flush times, it's still hard. I'm used to being resourceful. But for sure, the recession and the state of the economy has affected our earned income. Wonderfully, and fortunately, the Company has received generous support from George Soros' Open Society Foundation's Performing Arts Recovery Initiative, awarded this summer. This will hopefully open the door to other means of support.
Any advice to young artist's desiring to do what you are currently doing with your solo-work?
Discpline and focus are all that are needed. The ideas and the inspirations will come. Structure your life around your art, take care of your total health, leave time for rest, for friends, for family, while still making sacrifices to attend to your art. The ideas you think are the most personal, or awkward, or crazy, are often tapping into the juicy nugget that makes you interesting. Make the work you want to make.
Time for a little shift in the conversation. Since I like to incorporate advocacy and activism in my column...
Do you consider yourself and activist or advocate for Human Rights?
Yes although not in a formalized way. I am an advocate for my art form mostly.
What is your opinion on the recent Suicides that have affected the LGBT Communities in America?
The larger outcome of these horrors will be education. Greater visibility will ultimately fuel the fire of tolerance. That is unstoppable. We will look back on this period in the future as the past. The suicide of Tyler Clementi, and the others, will not be in vain. But the losses are painful.
Are you a Gay Man?
That's what it says on the birth certificate. Happily.
Any advice to the youth and Gay youth in the Arts?
Well, there never has been as good a time to be gay and young; the future is theirs, and ours will be in their hands in due time. Even with the spate of horrific recent events, progress is being made. There is always struggle in its pursuit.
This is FUTURE Favorite Question....Name 1 Guilty Pleasure
Midnight Cookies & Cream, by Haagen-Dazs: chocolate ice cream with Oreo cookies and ribbons of fudge. Ribbons of fudge...now if you'd like a lecture about that, the high butterfat content is responsible for...
Thanks so much Daniel and Congratulations on an awesome show Tuesday NITE!!!!