Dancing about longevity and looks

We spoke to choreographer/dancer Miguel Gutierrez about Age & Beauty Part 1: Mid-Career Artist/Suicide Note or &:-/, coming to Montreal this weekend.


Mickey Mahar and Miguel Gutierrez. Photos by Ian Douglas


“When you work inside of dance, there is always this lingering question about what the expiration date is going to be for your body and your career,” explains Brooklyn-based interdisciplinary artist Miguel Gutierrez, who’s at the cusp of his 44th year.

“But more than that, that sort of question of ‘How long will I last in this profession?’, which just leads you to the more obvious question, which is, ‘How long will I last, period?’”

These were some of the thoughts circling and diving around Gutierrez’s mind which propelled the creation of Age & Beauty Part 1: Mid-Career Artist/Suicide Note or &:-/.

The quirky duet, which was developed by Gutierrez and 20-something dancer and women’s studies grad Mickey Mahar, made its premiere at the Whitney Biennial  in New York in 2014.

“How and why do I want to keep going? There’s a certain amount of this where you feel like you’re producing to produce, and just to stay relevant or to stay in people’s minds or to stay viable. There are a lot of these questions that are hinging on your sense of self. The whole series of pieces in essence is thinking about time and past present future anxieties in that regard.”

Mahar and Gutierrez
Mahar and Gutierrez

Making its Canadian premiere at the Festival TransAmérique, the work is the first installment of a trilogy of queer pieces called Age & Beauty that Gutierrez says touches upon the physical and emotional labour of performance, tropes about the aging gay choreographer and mid-life anxieties about relevance and artistic burnout.

“The piece starts from a very orderly place and then it kind of follows into disorder,” he describes.  “It’s like peeling an onion.  That’s the way the piece sort of unfolds, and our representation of our relationship gets to pass through different versions of itself.” From romantic to competitive, mentor and mentee, their interactions morph through different stages. “There’s also an old homo guy and a young kid thing going on!” Gutierrez describes laughing. “It kind of passes through all of that.”

Set to electronic music composed by Gutierrez himself, at the outset of the piece he pumps up the crowd like a hyperactive aerobics instructor while sporting a one-piece, leaf-patterned hot pink bathing suit he picked up at a Mormon thrift store in Salt Lake City. In a colour coordinated set, Mahar and Gutierrez cleverly use movement, text, song and video to address obstacles to continuing in this world.

“A really basic thing I learned through creating this piece was that these fears that I have about aging or career, or any number of these anxieties that plague me at any given moment, you know, the only way through them is to lean into them. I can’t avoid these questions.” ■


Miguel Gutierrez performs as part of the Festival TransAmériques at the Théâtre Prospero (1371 Ontario E.), May 23–24, 9 p.m., May 25, 7 p.m., $28–$34

Gutierrez is DJing at Brooklyn at Montréal (175 Président-Kennedy), Tuesday, May 26, 10:30 p.m. as part of the Quartier Général free nocturnal festivities during the FTA festival.