Beth Gill’s Autobiographical ‘Nail Biter’ Gets a New York City Premiere

Beth Gill’s Autobiographical ‘Nail Biter’ Gets a New York City Premiere

There is a piano onstage, as well as a candlestick, a reference to Menes’s “Nutcracker.” In her version of that ballet, Gill said: “Clara would wake up and she would reach down and grab this candle, and she had that turned-out-looking walk, that super affected thing. Weirdly, that’s a section that I remember getting imprinted in my imagination.”

While dancers, in moments, spend time with the piano, Gill, in her solo, has the candlestick. Gill said that she never felt she had the right body for ballet. “There’s some sort of dumb, naïve longing, searching, like, kind of thing,” she said of her solo. “My role is constrained.”

Visually, her part is an extension of her role in “Pitkin Grove” (2018), a dance in which she dipped her body in a bucket of clay. It predated the birth of her son, who is now 4. “One of the ways that I am internally reconciling time is through the process of putting those same pants on and those same boots on,” she said. “Except that my body now is a body that had a baby and breast fed. In a way, performing in ‘Nail Biter’ is sort of a painful but maybe interesting meditation for myself about how to be in my body.”

Covered in clay, that is. It coats her pants and her boots, her skin and her hair, transforming Gill into something of a smudge in the space. “Because I’m kind of slicked back, it looks kind of classical,” she said. “I’m holding this old, tiny candlestick holder with a fake candle in it, and that has a certain time period to it. There’s something old about it, it’s kind of gothic.”

And it’s personal — as are all the roles, which are “kind of unconscious projections of myself,” Gill said. “It feels like my projects have become more like psychological works. When I talk about that autobiographical smudge, the emotional detritus that Maggie kind of embodies, it’s interesting for me to be in that.”

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