Spotlight Session: Savannah Gaillard
What are the Spotlight Sessions?
I was the child who asked “why” 150 times in a row, to the dismay and occasional annoyance of the adults around me. That curiosity and need for discovery grew with me and became a guide on my artistic path. Determination, inquisitiveness, and the drive to connect with others led me to write, dance, choreograph, produce, and educate.
I started my company, Six Degrees Dance, with the mission of creating community. Embodying the theory that all people are connected through a social network of 6 or fewer degrees, we collaborate in an environment where the exchange of ideas is the building block for innovation and growth. We approach dance making with the belief that the contribution of the individual benefits the group, and results in a body of work reflective of the sum of its parts.
To that end, we have developed several initiatives that connect artists with audiences and with each other, maintaining the idea of six degrees of separation as the foundation for those connections. Our annual showcase brings together national and international choreographers, most of whom have never met. Our Choreographic Commission series allows the dancers of Six Degrees to work with a variety of choreographers in different styles. In The Spotlight Sessions, I will present a different artist each cycle, and through interviews, short feature articles, previews, and capsule reviews, offer a behind the scenes look into their work and their process. I hope you enjoy getting to know these unique, talented individuals as much as I have, and continue to follow them on their creative paths.
Savannah Gaillard is a multidisciplinary artist interested in how the Black body is represented, constructed, and expressed in physical and digital spaces. Savannah began dancing at Manassas Ballet Theater and furthered her technique at Kirov Academy of Ballet in Washington, D.C., the Ailey School, and Future Dancers and Dancemakers (NYU Tisch). At the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C., she was featured in the Nutcracker with Ballet West and American Ballet Theater. In 2018, she debuted off-Broadway in Rodgers & Hammerstein’s Oklahoma “Dream Ballet,” directed by Daniel Fish and choreographed by John Heiginbotham.
At NYU Tisch, Savannah danced works by Wayne McGregor (staged by Davide Di Pretoro), Ronald K. Brown, Sidra Bell, Rodney Hamilton, and various student works. Simultaneously, she studied improvisation and gaga in Berlin and Tel Aviv under the instruction of Meg Stewart, Judith Sanchez-Ruiz, Leila McMillan, Shahar Binyami, Ohad Naharin, and many more. Savannah was a beneficiary of a partial tuition scholarship through NYU Tisch School of the Arts and a Princess Grace nominated finalist. Choreographically, she has been developing durational improvisation scores paired with creative technology and interactive design featured at the Jack Crystal Theater, Lightbox NYC, and the Junction Function NYC. She is thrilled to perform in Nevermore’s new immersive theater experience, Dreams of Dracula, premiering at Musica NYC until November 2023.
1. How did your artistic journey begin?
My artistic journey started through painting and drawing. In 5th grade, I told my mom I wanted to be an 'Artist'. I don't think that necessarily meant a painter, but I knew I needed to lead my life through creating. I was in Ballet classes from age three and stepped into Horton, Graham, and Jazz when I was about ten. At this point, I knew that dance was the art form for me; it was my first love. I would be exhausted from a full day of school and after-school dance team practice, peeling my eyes open as my mom pulled up to the dance studio, filled with joy, excitement, slight anxiety, and peace. No matter what happened the day before or what was expected of me after, I knew that I would be safe and happy and able to fully express myself inside the confinements of the dance studio (or the codified dance technique).
2. When do you feel most powerful?
I feel powerful when I am able to physicalize my emotions, thoughts, and intentions clearly to the audience. This can look like many things. I feel most powerful when the physicalization looks like stillness, intense eye contact, and nuanced moments that draw the audience closer into my space to investigate.
3. Can you describe your creative process?
My creative process begins with research. A lot of my work is inspired by visual art (sculpture specifically), my culture, and the life story of other visual/performance artists. I love researching the inspiration behind other artists' works to better understand the meaning behind their art-making and them as a person. Whatever visual or linguistic themes I use from my research, I create physical movement tasks that emulate those themes. My work is rooted and grown through and with improvisation. I love (for myself and my dancers) to chip away at a task for extended periods to the point at which I lose all sense of inspiration or drive towards that task. Once you get past this threshold of impatience, the most beautiful and unique movement qualities and compositions emerge.
4.What do you do when you are not creating? What things outside of the dance industry inspire you and fuel your creativity?
I love being in nature, especially near the ocean. I also love to go out dancing (social dancing - not professionally). I feel a beautiful escapism on the dance floor surrounded by friends whom I love listening to music I can close my eyes to and allow my body to take over. There is something freeing and inspiring to see waves of strangers bobbing and moving to one-piece music in their unique forms.
5. What is next for you?
I just came wrapped in an immersive theater production. I fell utterly in love with immersive work. My previous improvisational works and performances took place in site-specific locations with the audience surrounding us, but they needed more autonomy to move through us or us through them. This experience of implementing physical theater with my improvisation practice was extraordinarily humbling and addicting. I hope to be experimenting in more exaggerated and nuanced ways in Germany. I see a lot of compelling and raw work being done out there, meshing forms of physical theater, extremely physical dancing, and acting, and I hope to be a part of it in the next few years.
6. Is there a piece of advice you'd give to younger or emerging artists?
A piece of advice I got from an artist whom I looked up to was to be humble and sure of yourself. There are many personalities in this industry battling to be the center of attention. There is something so beautiful about showing your epicness, power, beauty, and grace in your work and not in your words or attitude. My other piece of advice, along with this, is to be confident in yourself and your decisions. Once I felt myself moving through the studio, conversations, on the streets with confidence and assurance in myself, I found a deeper connection to myself and my why.
Take a quick look at Savannah in action