Choreographer Amy Morrow on the World of Lady Gaga Dance

Live music and live dancers? Avant Chamber Ballet is already busy bringing that back to the stage. Powerful women in dance? Dallas isn't wanting for dance troupes with strong female representation--after all, ACB is one of them. OK, fine. What about women creating the dance? The argument stands that there just aren't enough women choreographers--or, at the very least, we don't see them or their work enough. In fact, as ACB artistic director and co-founder (and one of our 100 Dallas Creatives) Katie Puder says in a video clip, "As I grew up and danced professionally in ballet companies, I never actually worked with a female choreographer. The majority of ballet dancers are female, actually, but then you don't see very many female artistic directors or choreographers." So, ACB created and organized the Women's Choreography Project at the Eisemann Center this weekend to draw attention to some incredibly talented ones in our midst.

The show includes the work of Elizabeth Gillaspy (associate professor of ballet at Texas Christian University), Emily Hunter (dance teacher at Booker T. Washington School of the Visual and Performing Arts and Arlington Classical Ballet Academy), ACB's own Katie Puder, and Amy Morrow (choreographer, and teacher of Gaga in Austin and Tel Aviv).

Because we've already palled around with Puder, and Gillaspy and Hunter are fairly local, we set our sights on the globetrotting Morrow, and begged her to tell us more about the hows and whys of her contribution, String Theory to Women's Choreography Project. Oh, and--aside from the kind preceded by "Lady"--what in the world is Gaga?

But first, the basics: Morrow is based out of our rival city of Austin for much of the year, but lives in Tel Aviv, Israel during the summer. She's also a communications specialist, which assuredly assists her in ability to work with all kinds. "I collaborate with a lot of artists on choreography who are not dancers, including my partner, Martin, our musician friends, videographers, and a cat named Slab," she says via email. And she started performing very close to home: "My first full-length evening performance was set to the Lion King soundtrack in my folks' living room."

How did you get involved with Avant Chamber Ballet's Women's Choreography Project?  I was asked to perform in Dancers Against Cancer last June and dedicated the piece to my mom, on the eve of her 12th (and hopefully final) round of chemo. After the show, Katie [Puder] reconnected with me and we started talking about this project. 

Is choreography an area you've always felt needed an expansion in terms of representation?  It is true that there are very few established women choreographers compared to the ratio of men, but I don't see that as an impulse for a woman to choreograph. I am a creative being so I create. I suppose if I had a green thumb, I would water my plants, and the plants wouldn't care what sex, ethnicity, or age I was as long as they were cared for. 

What is String Theory about, or inspired by? Will you also be performing in it? I love this question! I hope to answer it after you have seen it and tell me if it is in fact inspiring. The piece has its own life. It began as a solo, then it bantered with a second partner until the duet became a solo again with the absence of the other person. The latest version is all of this in the context of a group of two duets. I perform the solo and duet versions for other commissions, but with Avant, I have the pleasure of stepping back and experiencing it with the audience off the stage. 

When you think about the audience for this piece, what is the reaction you are hoping for? My goal is very simple: I just want to distract people for a moment. I hope they enjoy it; they don't have to love it or get it, but I do want them to experience at least one meaningful moment. 

You're trained in, and teach, Gaga, which is very different than what most people immediately think of: Lady Gaga. Can you tell us about it? Gaga is a movement language which Ohad Naharin developed over the course of over 25 years and which is applied in daily practice and exercises by the Batsheva Dance Company members in Tel Aviv, Israel. The language of Gaga originated from the belief in the healing, dynamic, ever-changing power of movement.

Since Gaga is a language, is it something that can be "performed," so to speak? Gaga is a toolbox. We use the tools from class when we create and perform, but "performing" Gaga would be as odd as paying to see a carpenter hold their hammer. As a language it really unlocks a mover's own artistic voice, and that is what we use when we perform. It is all about how you use it. 

How does Gaga touch your choreography? Did it affect the piece we're seeing this week?  I appreciate how you said "touch your choreography." Movement touches on our habits, and while Gaga isn't a style, it does reveal habits. My struggle as a choreographer is to not be a slave to my own mannerisms. Gaga helps me be even more aware of my habits and reverse them if I like without being managed by them. If this doesn't make sense, you'll have to come to class and you'll get the sense of it.

So, out of curiosity, can anyone try Gaga, or would they need prior dance experience? Everyone 17+ is welcome in a Gaga class (if younger students ask, I give a separate special session for them only). No experience is necessary, just a body. It is a safe environment without mirrors, observers, or latecomers. Mikhail Baryshnikov has taken classes with us in Tel Aviv, Natalie Portman is a longtime supporter, and my Grandmom and even boyfriend--who's an IT specialist and musician--are also fans. 

OK, we've already brought it up. Do you get the impression Lady Gaga a fan of Gaga? I haven't heard, but maybe one day. I actually took my first Gaga class from Ohad with a friend who was one of her dancers. 

OK, how about some fun stuff: Give us your favorites. Color to see on stage: Anything (but Pepto-Bismol pink) Piece of dance memorabilia: My serendipitous ticket stub from Ohad's Sadeh21, in row 21, seat 21, on November 21, 2011 Dance production (performed or seen): Sadeh21 Dance celebrity that when you met them made you go weak in the Achilles: I walked into company class once to see a naked bum (not surprising for dancers who do a quick strip after biking to class). The bum turned around and the gentlemen said, "Oh my dear, I'm so sorry." All I could muster was "No worries, it's all good, Mr. Baryshnikov." Destination: Home

Say anything you want, right now. Dancers, go outside everyday, listen to your pain, people are worth more than gigs, and more than being a perfect dancer, be human. Everyone else, dance and move a little every single day, and most importantly, thank you for being nice to us dancers trying to be human.

Show dancers and choreographers alike the thanks is all ours at Women's Choreography Project, 8 p.m. Saturday and 3 p.m. Sunday at the Eisemann Center, 2351 Performance Drive in Richardson. Tickets are $30. Reserve them at

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Merritt Martin
Contact: Merritt Martin

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