By: Paulanne Simmons
October 22, 2018: With her MFA in choreography fresh in her pocket, in 1995, Tiffany Mills left Ohio State University for New York City. Five years later she founded Tiffany Mills Company, presenting contemporary dance, with an emphasis on community activities, collaboration and the human experience.
According to Mills, she is primarily interested in dance as “human and different.” Because all dancers draw on their personal experience, background and personality, Mills insists “They are not pawns being told what to do. They make decisions.”
The Tiffany Mills dancers work on solving “tasks.” This may involve both improvisation and collaboration. “I love partnering,” Mills says. “Weight-bearing and partnering.”
For the last ten years, Mills’ exploration of the medium has led to collaborations with dramaturgs, which helps her work with text and character development. Most recently, Mills has worked with Kay Cummings, who, she says, thinks from a theatrical perspective and asks such insightful questions as “how does this fit in thematically?”
All of this can be seen in the company’s latest work, Blue Room, presented September 12 through 15 at The Flea, the company’s anchor partner (a select group of seven emerging dance companies that receive subsidized rental rates; access to The Flea’s spaces; and technical, marketing and producing support).
Blue Room is about how people connect or fail to connect. Dancers wear headphones and interact with their gadgets. “Our devices can take people out of their surroundings and isolate them,” Mills explains.
Blue Room uses blue painter’s tape to delineate the room, and, as the piece progresses, the room shifts and the tape comes off the floor as borders become more flexible.
Currently, Mills is working on a new piece, Endless Shapes, in collaboration with a Puerto Rican composer, Angelica Negron, and a French vocalist, Muriel Louveau. The piece is inspired by Frankenstein’s 200 anniversary. Mills says she is looking at those surreal places that are found in between – life and death, night and day.
As for the future of dance itself, Mills is enthusiastically hopeful.
“It’s really important for dancers to try to reach out to as many communities as possible. To survive we have to,” she maintains
This can mean bringing in new collaborators or using different kinds of music. It can also mean developing outreach programs, such as the company’s Salon Series in which works in progress and after show talks are presented at various locations around the city.
For Mills, the preforming arts are not a luxury.” They are necessary in society, especially in challenging times.”
Photography: Robert Altman