Dance at Socrates: an interview with Julia K Gleich

Norte Maar, Socrates Sculpture Park, Dance at Socrates, summer dance (As published on Norte Maar by Sara Christoph)  In a few weeks time, the sculptures of Socrates Sculpture Park will have a little extra jazz in their step. Dance at Socrates, a partnership between Socrates Sculpture Park and Norte Maar, kicks off on August 5th with a summer dance residency and performance series featuring four New York based choreographers.  Julia K Gleich (Gleich Dances), Edisa Weeks (Delirious Dances), Takehiro Ueyama (TAKE Dance), and Rachel Cohen (Racoco Productions). The best part: the entire series is free and open to the public!

Each choreographer will take to the stage with their dancers Monday through Friday, with each day’s rehearsal being entirely within public view. This will give park visitors the chance to witness the evolution of each choreographer’s artistic practice as they watch the movements progress through the week. The “official” performances will take place on the final day of each choreographer’s residency, on Saturday afternoons throughout August, at 3 p.m.

First up is Julia K Gleich, artistic director of Gleich Dances and the co-founder of Norte Maar. With her Socrates residency just around the corner, Norte Maar’s Sara Christoph caught up with Julia K Gleich for a brief chat about her life in the dance world.

Julia K Gleich, Gleich Dances, Norte Maar, Dance at Socrates, Socrates Sculpture Park

NM: How long have you been dancing, and when did you start choreographing?

JKG:  This question always make me chuckle. I can't really remember when I wasn't dancing. I used to make dances in the living room when I was growing up in Rochester, MN, to the oddest selections of music—Deep Purple, Swan Lake, Led Zeppelin, Coppelia, Emerson Lake and Palmer. I would dance in front of the bay windows that looked out onto the main street, oblivious to the neighbors! At nine I began dancing in earnest, and then we moved to New York where things got more serious. I studied at School of American Ballet and was a favorite of Melissa Hayden. She had a private studio at Columbus Circle. I experimented with a bunch of complex group dances  in the early 1990s while I was on faculty at the Ballet Department at the University of Utah, and my first company called A Couterie of Dancers spent summers in Jackson Hole, WY.  I didn't feel I could call myself a choreographer until I had my first season produced in New York City in 2001 at the Joyce SoHo (now closed).

NM:  How do you describe the types of movement that interest you?

JKG:  My work is constantly evolving and I find it difficult to name what it is. At the moment, I am a little tired of dance needing to be very "deep" and dark. Choreographing joy is a big challenge that interests me. I just completed a work, which was presented earlier this summer in London, which  I am incredibly proud of: Speak Easy Secrets which I would describe as "middle art.” I let myself go and created work that really represents the kind of audience experience I have always imagined possible. And I think it succeeded.

NM:  For the project at Socrates, you'll be completing the week-long residency on an outdoor stage in a pubic park. Surely people will stop to watch you and your dancers work. How do you think this transparency will affect the final dance? Will your approach be interactive in any way?

JKG:  My approach is always interactive. I incorporate accidents into my work all the time and want audiences to feel a part of performance. I will probably talk to people who stop by and look, and ask them questions about what they are seeing. It is an opportunity to remove the veil, to consider how audiences can be engaged differently. It would be thrilling to have people come everyday and give feedback about the development over time. I want to be sure to utilize the audience! I can't wait.

NM:  Is there anything specific you are thinking about in preparation for this performance, any initial thematic direction or ideas of where you'd like the movement to go?

JKG:  My work during the residency will take two tracks. I have been developing a series of 1920's dances and will continue to explore those works. I also hope to develop some new material using my vector system. Both of these approaches involve ballet, pointe, contemporary/modern, and sometimes popular dance forms as well.

NM:  What is up next for you? Any future projects?

JKG:  I am recovering from a very exciting year: promoting CounterPointe, a production of curated work for women making work on pointe; completing my new immersive ballet Speak Easy Secrets, a project just awarded a major grant from Art Council England, and a host of other works including Norte Maar’s Cage Transmitted. I’ve even been to Hong Kong to be an external examiner for the Hong Kong Academy of Performing Arts. This summer, I will be teaching choreography for Brooklyn Ballet, and visiting Burklyn Ballet in Vermont. In November, with Norte Maar and Brooklyn Ballet, I’ll be producing CounterPointe in Brooklyn. I need a rest!