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Christopher Gillis (February 26, 1951 in Montreal – August 7, 1993 in New York City), a choreographer and a longtime leading dancer with the Paul Taylor Dance Company, died on August 7, 1993, at his home in Manhattan. He was 42.

The cause was AIDS, said Ellen Jacobs, a spokeswoman for the Taylor company.

Mr. Gillis was a prototypical Taylor dancer, with a compact body and a boyishly serious manner through which a glint of humor often showed. Anna Kisselgoff, the chief dance critic of The New York Times, wrote of Mr. Gillis's "serene muscularity full of nuance, unassuming wit and acute rhythmic training" in a review of his 1990 "Curbs and Corridors." She continued, "In his stage personality, he captures an inner reality, an interior brooding, behind a striking physical bravura."

Mr. Gillis was born in Montreal to the Olympic skiers Gene Gillis and Rhona Wurtele. He began his dance training in 1972 with two American modern-dance choreographers, May O'Donnell and Norman Walker. He also studied with Mr. Taylor, Finis Jhung and Cindi Green. He joined the Taylor company in 1976. Among his major roles in the company were the detective in Mr. Taylor's version of "Le Sacre du Printemps" and leading parts in "Profiles," "Arden Court" and "Speaking in Tongues."


AIDS Quilt

Mr. Gillis also performed with his sister, the Montreal choreographer and dancer Margie Gillis, and with the companies of Miss O'Donnell and Jose Limon.

Mr. Gillis became a prolific choreographer, showing his first dances in the early 1980's, initially independently and later as part of the Taylor company's repertory. He created 21 works, to music ranging from Mozart to the songs of Dionne Warwick. His last piece, "Landscape," was a solo meditation on death. Ms. Gillis performed it at the Joyce Theater in January.

Mr. Gillis seldom told stories in his dances, which tended to be relatively abstract with undercurrents of emotion. "I try to do movement right from the emotions," he said in 1990, when his choreography was presented at the Next Wave Festival at the Brooklyn Academy of Music. "That makes the movement have a soft core to it."

His major works include "Andalusian Green," "Farewell," "Icarus at Night," "Luv's Alfabete" and "Homeward." His dances are in the repertories of the Taylor troupe, Mikhail Baryshnikov's White Oak Dance Project, the Repertory Dance Theater and the Fairfax Ballet. Ms. Gillis also performed several of his pieces.

Source: http://www.nytimes.com/1993/08/09/obituaries/christopher-gillis-is-dead-at-42-a-dancer-turned-choreographer.html

Further Readings:

Performance in America: Contemporary U.S. Culture and the Performing Arts by David Román
Paperback: 376 pages
Publisher: Duke University Press Books (November 23, 2005)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0822336634
ISBN-13: 978-0822336631
Amazon: Performance in America: Contemporary U.S. Culture and the Performing Arts

Performance in America demonstrates the vital importance of the performing arts to contemporary U.S. culture. Looking at a series of specific performances mounted between 1994 and 2004, well-known performance studies scholar David Román challenges the belief that theatre, dance, and live music are marginal art forms in the United States. He describes the crucial role that the performing arts play in local, regional, and national communities, emphasizing the power of live performance, particularly its immediacy and capacity to create a dialogue between artists and audiences. Román draws attention to the ways that the performing arts provide unique perspectives on many of the most pressing concerns within American studies: questions about history and politics, citizenship and society, and culture and nation.

The performances that Román analyzes range from localized community-based arts events to full-scale Broadway productions and from the controversial works of established artists such as Tony Kushner to those of emerging artists. Román considers dances produced by the choreographers Bill T. Jones and Neil Greenberg in the mid-1990s as new aids treatments became available and the aids crisis was reconfigured; a production of the Asian American playwright Chay Yew’s A Beautiful Country in a high-school auditorium in Los Angeles’s Chinatown; and Latino performer John Leguizamo’s one-man Broadway show Freak. He examines the revival of theatrical legacies by female impersonators and the resurgence of cabaret in New York City. Román also looks at how the performing arts have responded to 9/11, the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan, and the second war in Iraq. Including more than eighty illustrations, Performance in America highlights the dynamic relationships among performance, history, and contemporary culture through which the past is revisited and the future reimagined.

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