Maria Soledad Gillespie is a choreographer, performer, dance, and somatic educator. She directs MG/The Collaboratory and Hyperlocal MKE, dedicated to interdisciplinary collaboration and improvised performance practice. She directs the community teaching project Parts of the Whole-The Body Is Home, sharing expressive experiences with youth impacted by the carceral system. As her research is grounded by collaboration, she continues to make work with long time collaborators, Nguyễn Nguyên and Kevin Williamson. She is Associate Professor and Chair of department of dance at UW-Milwaukee.

In the Midwest, Gillespie has collaborated with Present Music, Nirmal Raja, Lois Bielefeld, Portia Cobb, Sonja Thomsen, Glenn Williams, Nathaniel Stern, Joelle Worm, Christal Wagner, Tim Russell, Mike Rea, and Renaissance Theaterworks. Gillespie founded LA-based Oni Dance (2003-2015) and was named one of Dance Magazine’s “25 to Watch”. Her work has been presented nationally and internationally at venues including The Ford Amphitheatre, The Getty Museum, REDCAT, UCLA, Cal Arts, Highways Performance Space, and Joyce SoHo. Gillespie has performed and taught in Beijing, Guangzhou, Tokyo, and Mexico City and taught at several universities including UCLA Department of World Arts & Cultures/Dance, Cal Arts, Loyola Marymount University, and was a choreographic and teaching resident in Mexico City with Apoc Apoc.

Mediums: My body, your body, the space where our bodies meet, the ground beneath my feet, the room encasing us, the light and shadows dancing on the floor and on my skin; the language, the memories, my ancestors who bring tears to my eyes and courage to my flesh; music and words; all the music and words

Favorite Artist Tools: My breath, my hands, my feet, my will – space!

Go-to Local Inspiration: Shore of Lake Michigan, the sunrise – she reminds me of the meaning of “yes,” the youth I get to work with, watching anybody dance

Mentee Compliment: Kim exudes peace. She reveals harmony in her embodied practice – grounded calm tones in voice, softness of brush strokes gently touching canvas, color placed in the world to remind me where to look! – she has helped me appreciate that representation and memory need each other to reach folks. She is the embodiment of gentle persistence. Kim reminds me of kind arms that embrace a child or a soft tide that shapes a shore. She holds her practice as precisely and with tranquility, and does not need determination. Devotion is her fuel.

Fun Fact: I drew a theater, stage, and audience on my closet walls with crayon as a child and would dance in there. I used to catch milkweed seeds and keep them as pets.

Serious Fact: I am afraid of the dark and basements. 

Artist Statement

My practice builds experiences that celebrate and channel the unruly chaos of bodies. I work with and push against known forms to find moments of harmony from uniting the varied, textured grains of the body. I believe liberation begins in and lives through the body, and so it is the primary text for my process. I improvise and work with voice, text, media, objects, sound, other bodies to find ideas that converge into strange or elegant manners of being. I thrive by creating in collective settings of emergent practices with collaborators. My work originates from written language and the rhythmic harmony of moving through space and making space. Melody is memory for me. I draw upon autoethnography to share how our embodied subjectivities are our common ground. Through dancing, we enliven all that is dormant, wake the ancestors, leverage shared histories, and celebrate all the harmonies and dissonance that transform living into the rapture that is the visual and kinetic topography of the body.