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Maria Gillespie

Associate Professor, Dance


MFA, Choreography, UCLA
BFA, Dance, SUNY Purchase


Maria Gillespie is a choreographer, performer, dance educator, and the artistic director of Oni Dance. She received an MFA in choreography from UCLA’s Department of World Arts & Cultures and her BFA in dance from SUNY Purchase. Gillespie founded Oni Dance in 2005 and was named one of Dance Magazine's "25 to Watch". Gillespie's dances... "ricochet between vulnerability and strength with razor-sharp shifts in intensity and intent" (LA Times) and have been presented nationally and internationally. Residing in Los Angeles from 1996-2012, Gillespie's choreography was been presented by The Ford Amphitheatre, The Getty Museum, the Roy and Edna Disney/Cal Arts Theater (REDCAT), The A.W.A.R.D Show!, UCLA's Department of World Arts & Cultures, Cal Arts, The Fowler Museum, Highways Performance Space, The Electric Lodge, Cal State Long Beach, Diavolo, The Brand Library & Arts Center, The Alexandria Hotel, numerous festivals throughout LA as well as at Joyce SoHo (NYC), CounterPULSE (San Francisco). Gillespie and her company Oni Dance have performed in Beijing, Tokyo, and are most recently developing work in Mexico City. While residing in Los Angeles, she performed and toured extensively with Victoria Marks, Laura Gorenstein-Miller’s Helios Dance Theater, and additionally with Simone Forti, David Rousseve, and Joe Goode. She has been commissioned by The Getty Center and for choreographic residencies at Scripps College, Pomona College, Cal State Long Beach, and Santa Monica College dance departments. Noted as a "charismatic, mighty performer with a distinct vision" (LA Times), Gillespie is a four time Lester Horton Award winner (2002-2005). Gillespie’s dance film, Saliendo, shot on super 8, was presented in Dance Camera West’s film festival. She is the honored recipient of grants from The Durfee Foundation, The James Irvine Foundation, and UW-Milwaukee’s Center for Latin American & Caribbean Studies. Oni Dance was a gallery artist with Pentacle in 2011/2012. Gillespie relocated from Los Angeles in 2012 to join the faculty at UWM’s Peck School of the Arts as assistant professor. Originally from Nashville, TN, she studied at the School of Nashville Ballet and performed with the company. She received her BFA in dance from SUNY Purchase in 1993. As a member of the Purchase Dance Corps, Ms. Gillespie performed choreography by Charles Weidman and Lin Hwai-min of Cloud Gate Dance Theater. Upon graduating in 1993, she formed 86 NYLON, a collaborative trio whose choreography was presented in New York (93-95) by Dixon Place, Movement Research, Gowanus Arts Exchange, and Next Stage Company. Her choreographic and teaching influences are born from the mentorships of Simone Forti, Neil Greenberg, Guillermo Gomez Peña, Peter Sellars, David Rousseve, Vic Marks, Cheng-Chieh Yu, and Janet O’Shea. She was an adjunct professor at UCLA's Department of World Arts & Cultures (2001-2008) and continued teaching at UCLA through 2011. An esteemed teacher of contemporary modern technique and Pilates-based dance conditioning, she has been lecturer and guest faculty at California Institute of the Arts, Loyola Marymount University, California State University Long Beach, University of Iowa, Dance New Amsterdam (NY, NY), La Cantera in Mexico City, and the Beijing Modern Dance Festival. In the summer of 2011 & 2013 Gillespie was a choreographic and teaching resident in Mexico City with the company Apoc Apoc. In 2012 & 2013, Gillespie traveled to China to teach and perform in the Beijing Dance Festival. She offers master classes at universities throughout Southern California and is a guest regularly at numerous Los Angeles institutions including BackhausDance, LA Contemporary Dance Company, and Harvard Westlake.