Dancers and choreographers can lead nomadic lives. A gig here, a tour there. But for the better part of this year, Andrea Miller, an increasingly prominent choreographer based in New York, will have a place to hang her dance shoes, so to speak.
Miller, who founded her company Gallim (Hebrew for “waves”) Dance a couple of years ago, was chosen by the JCC in Manhattan for its nine-month residency. The deal requires her to create a Jewish-themed work in exchange for precious studio time (three times a week) for her troupe.
The Jewish-themed piece is on the back burner for now, though, as Miller gets set to premiere a work inspired by the famously eccentric and celebrated classical pianist Glenn Gould. She says there isn’t much Jewish material in the new work. But the piece, titled “For Glenn Gould” and opening next week at the Dance Theater Workshop, doesn’t feature much Glenn Gould either (Jan. 18-22, 219 W. 19th St.,  691-6500.)
It’s inspired by Gould’s strikingly different renditions of Bach’s “Goldberg Variations” — one crisp and buoyant, recorded in 1955; the other plaintive and almost ethereal, from 1981, the year before he died.
But Miller says she won’t even include the recordings in her work.
In fact, she hasn’t even decided what music she’ll use at all. “I’ll probably decide the day before the show,” she said, not jokingly. But don’t take the indecision as a sign of career paralysis.
It’s actually been a busy year for Miller, 28. In the past few months, she’s taken Gallim to Spain, Oregon, to City Center’s Fall for Dance Festival, and to coveted venues like Jacob’s Pillow and the Spoleto Festival.
Miller cut her dance teeth with Israel’s premier company, Batsheva, during a two-year stint starting in 2004. When she founded Gallim, Batsheva’s trademark “Gaga” style — intense physicality and the encouragement of each dancer’s individual self-expression — stayed with her.
For the Gould piece, Miller has each of her six dancers create their own solos, which Miller then molded into a broader structure. The dance is split into 15-minute halves, inspired by Gould’s dual recordings and his personal evolution between the two.
“It’s so amazing to hear his transition,” she said. “I began thinking about artists’ transitions and about the need to change.” Otherwise, she said, “you become stagnant. You become a machine.”
Miller asked each dancer to bring in personally meaningful items, which are strewn about the stage at the beginning of the piece. By the end each dancer has built the items into life-like sculptures. “They’re kind of like a scarecrow of self-portraits,” Miller said.
The Jewish content is thin, but she has mined her Jewish identity in the past. In 2009, for instance, Miller created a work at The Joyce called “Naci,” based on Sephardic Jewry. It was inspired by her Spanish and Jewish-American backgrounds, and vivid memories of a recent Passover seder in a courtyard in Spain.
The JCC’s senior director of arts and culture, Karen Sander, is impressed with Miller and Gallim. “Her company performed here recently on two different occasions, and we immediately saw how she connected to audiences emotionally, viscerally and intellectually,” Sander said. “We discussed what we could do together next and she said that having a solid home base would make all the difference in helping her company grow.”
Though she hasn’t begun to work on the JCC piece, Miller has thought about it. “I think it’ll be about Hebrew, just the language itself,” she said. “And about how so much of culture lives within language, both the written one and the physical one.”