“I did not want to be a tree, a flower or a wave. In a dancers body, we as audience must see ourselves, not the imitated behavior of everyday actions, not the phenomena of nature, not exotic creatures from another planet, but something of the miracle that is a human being.” ~Martha Graham
Please let Michelle Dillon Photography introduce you to Gwen Gussman! I had the privilege of photographing Gwen as she prepares for her extensive training in New York City to become a professional modern dancer. I met Gwen 10 years ago when she was a young dancer in training at Cleo Parker Robinson Dance. Her intoxicating smile and natural talent made her stand out amongst the other young dancers and I have truly enjoyed watching her grow into a beautiful young woman and extremely talented dancer. I have great pride in having shared the stage many times with Gwen during the Cleo Parker Robinson Dance annual holiday production, “Granny Dances to a Holiday Drum” and I send her all my love and support during this next adventure in her life. Dance on Sweet Gwen!
Dancer preparing to dance at NYU Tisch School of the Arts
Recently Graduated from Denver School of the Arts
Trained at Cleo Parker Robinson Dance and the CPRD Training Group
NYU Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
“Through dance we more fully experience our capacity to feel. Dance resonates with people because it is an expansion of the human threshold for emotion through movement.” Gwen says when asked why she dances.
Gwen is proficient in Jazz, Modern (Horton, Graham, Limon), Contemporary Ballet, Hip hop, Funk, Ballet, and West African Dance. Her favorite styles are Modern and Contemporary Ballet because, “I am able to fully express my passion for movement, and for life as a whole. Both styles allow for the exploration of various emotions, and complex themes internally and externally. Both styles have vast repertoire, and while they foster dance from the past, they are also constantly moving and looking towards the future of dance.”
Gwen loves to perform dance so she can emote. “I always hope that my emotion and love for dance will translate into the audience. Even if just one person walks away from the performance changed, that is enough. I hope to inspire people!”
Gwen was born and raised in Denver, Colorado. At the age of 3, she began dancing with Ms. Marta in a creative movement class at Cleo Parker Robinson’s Dance School. Taking creative movement and jazz classes throughout elementary school at Cleo’s was fun for Gwen but it wasn’t until she was accepted to Denver School of the Arts in 6th grade that she truly began to take dance seriously. She continued to dance at Cleo’s after school in their Training Group and performed at various events monthly and sometimes even weekly. Gwen has been a member of the Cleo Parker Robinson Training Group for 5 years. They perform for many benefits and dance festivals around Colorado, as well as traveled to L.A. to perform in the International Association of Black’s in Dance Conference this past January. Recently they have performed and donated proceeds to The Arc foundation. Later in life, Gwen would love to travel to India and work to help the women and children in the red light district . She imagines a collaborative project with others where she will help in their rescue, rehabilitation and reintegration into society.
Gwen has broadened her horizons in recent years from the Rocky Mountains to New York City. In 2009, Gwen did a professional summer program at the Alvin Ailey School in NYC and performed choreography by Cornelius Carter. Summer of 2010, Gwen was accepted as an advanced student for the Dance Theater of Harlem’s Summer Intensive where she performed choreography by Robert Garland. She also received private lessons and choreography from Roger C. Jeffrey this past year and considers him one of her mentors. Cecelia Jones, Gwen’s teacher, director and friend also stands as a mentor to Gwen. Both Cecelia Jones and Roger C. Jeffrey inspire Gwen through their own accomplishments as well as the support they give in hers. They help Gwen understand dance and what it means technically, emotionally and in the broader spectrum of the entire world. She loves “how passionate they both are about dance as an art, not just as a technique.”
A recent highlight in Gwen’s pre-professional dance career was being invited to dance as an apprentice with the Cleo Parker Robinson Dance Ensemble this past season. She learned what it was like to be in a professional dance company. Gwen says, “It was an incredible learning experience and to be able to perform among the company members was amazing!”
Gwen’s inspiration for her dancing comes from her overall “Love for Life.” She fills her life with many elements such as singing, reading, working at Anthropologie where she is exploring her interest in fashion, writing and spending time with family and friends. Gwen absolutely loves reading and writing. Two of her favorites are Unbearable Lightness of Being by Milan Kundera and One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez. Gwen loves journaling, writing notes and letters to friends and truly enjoys writing essays for school. She says, “I really get into it. Maybe this will turn into writing articles for Dance Magazine someday.”
With all this training, performing and ‘living life’ Gwen finds the balance to keep herself going by receiving acupuncture and massage often. When asked how she would advice other young dancers who seem to be on a similar path, she responded with, “It takes a lot of drive and so much hard work, so just remember how much you love it and stay true to what it(dance) is for you. Have fun with it and try not to take yourself or dance too seriously”
Gwen is very interested in dancing internationally and has her sights set on traveling the globe with her dancing. Her current goal is to join the professional dance company, Netherlands Dance Theatre following graduation from NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts. She also aspires to work with companies such as Cedar Lake Contemporary Ballet, Complexions, Alvin Ailey, Lar Lubovitch, Nathan Trice, Ronald K. Brown, Larry Keigwin + Company, and many others.
Gwen just graduated from Denver School of the Arts as a dance major, and will be attending NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts as a dance major this fall. “I feel so lucky to have trained at DSA and Cleo’s for all these years, and feel extremely prepared and excited to be moving to NYC in the fall!” Michelle Dillon Photography sends you off on this next dance chapter in your life with lots of love and encouragement!
To enjoy more photos of Gwen click on her Slideshow.