Gillis Travels Well With Polished Moves

For Margie Gillis, dancing has always been about traveling--about touring her solo programs internationally for nearly 20 years, and about the music that seems to flow through her veins before it travels out to her always receptive audiences. A suddenly focused gaze, a gently placed foot, impulses that make her every effort and pause seem organic--these are the passports that carry the Canadian dancer across many borders.

In a program of well polished dances made over the last decade, many of her hallmarks were featured Saturday night at La Mirada Theatre for the Performing Arts. There were two pieces by Gillis to taped Bach music--"Variations" and "Slipstream"--in which her feet shifted as quickly as the racing notes, while her upper body seemed to ride the rhythms like waves.

Then there were the sculpturally slow pieces, the best of which was "Seul le Desir" from 1995, a dreamily detached duet with Robert Wood to keening violins in Arvo Part music.

And, as any Gillis-watcher knows, there had to be dances that foregrounded the manipulation of long black dresses and her impressive sheath of henna-colored hair. The hair color is recent, the masterfully designed visual effects are not, but they seem to have a lasting appeal. In the gothically acrobatic "Mara" by Stephanie Ballard and in Gillis' "Torn Roots, Broken Branches," flowing fabric amplified her form in interesting ways. It's an old trick, but in Gillis' hands, one that travels well.

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