Some claim Miami has no memory. Maybe, but no one is forgetting teacher, choreographer, and erstwhile Miami-resident Gerri Houlihan. A former soloist with the Lar Lubovitch Dance Company, and schooled in Martha Graham and Jose Limon technique, Houlihan remembers as much as anyone alive about the making of modern dance in the United States.
Now on the faculty at Florida State University, Houlihan left an indelible mark in South Florida during her stint as a teacher at the New World School of the Arts and artistic director of the Miami-based Houlihan and Dancers in the 1990s. Her legacy will be celebrated with a retrospective at the Florida Dance Association's Winterfest this Thursday.
Former Houlihan dancer Jennifer Nugent with collaborator Paul Matteson
There is no greater testament to Houlihan's influence than the imminent
ascendance of her favorite student, Robert Battle, now the
artistic director for the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater. "Robert is
the person who reminds me the most of myself at the start of my career,"
Houlihan beams over the phone from Tallahassee. "He was always able to
dance the movements with the style, phrasing, and nuance that I saw in
my mind's eye."
Also bearing witness is former Houlihan dancer Jennifer
Nugent, now with the Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Dance Company and a
celebrated choreographer in her own right. She'll return to the Miami
stage for the retrospective as a guest artist along with Nugent's
frequent collaborator Paul Matteson.
Typically, Houlihan reminisces more about the dancers she worked with
than the dances she devised. "I am so appreciative of the many
incredible dancers who were such an important part of the company, and
also so responsible for my growth as an artist," she says. "I hope that
people will feel that deep connection and the joy in the dancing."
So it should be no surprise that she pays homage to her teachers as
well. "Anthony Tudor, my teacher at Juilliard and an extraordinary
choreographer, was a huge influence," she says of the Brit who played a
critical role in formation of the American Ballet Theater. "His
musicality, wit, and ability to find connections between classical
ballet and contemporary dance made him way ahead of his time."
On her way to see the new Natalie Portman film Black Swan, purported to
do for ballet what Hitchcock's Psycho did for showers, Houlihan says the
time for innovative dance has come. "Dance is everywhere now," she
exclaims. "Old models for training and creating work are constantly
being challenged. Personally, I am always delighted to see pure, simple,
committed, smart, heartfelt dancing of any kind!"
Share the enthusiasm at the Gerri Houlihan & Houlihan & Dancers
Retrospective at 8:00 p.m. on Thursday at the New World
School of the Arts (25 NE Second Street, Miami). Call 305-310-8080 or visit
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floridadanceassociation.org. Tickets cost $15, $10 for
students/seniors, and $8 for FDA Members.
-- Nelson Hernandez from artburstmiami.com