The Narcissist Issue


It’s been a day of finales here at Queerty. First Gay Speak closes shop and now we present the final installment of The Narcissist Issue.

We find it appropriate to end with a piece on dancer Miguel Gutierrez, whose self-referential works draw from a well of universal emotions. So, hop to it and plunge into the jump to see why Gutierrez thinks that dance is more than just a performance, how the viewer should leave his performances with more than just memories, and why he just can’t stop moving.

Next month we’re going to scare the pants off you with The Totally Frightful Issue, so keep those peepers peeled, Paco!

Born in Queens and raised in New Jersey, Miguel Gutierrez started dancing at the tender age of nine. While his father may have wanted him to follow in his engineering footsteps, Gutierrez preferred following his sister to cheerleading practice. So, why dancingl? “It gives me a reason to be fucking alive, it gives me a reason to wake up, it gives me a reason for being in the world. [It’s] what I’m supposed to do.” After studying dance at Brown and Tisch, Gutierrez left school to work professionally. Sure, some people may consider dance just a performance, but Gutierrez uses his skills for more than just a show. His every move works to express his inner most emotions, thus engaging the audience in something much larger than a just a recital. He insists that to truly be effective, performative expression must resonate in the viewing subject.

I like creating experience. I’m intrigued by the creation of experience… I think that performances exist beyond the time of the performance. They exist within the subjectivity of the audience member.

Though his work seeks to engage the audience, the subject matter often revolves around him, as it did in the 2005 solo show, “Retrospective Exhibitionist.”

Watching that show, one can’t help but sense both an immense amount of sorrow and a search for hope in Gutierrez’s movement. Below, one sees a still from a segment in which Gutierrez kneels above a mirror spouting a litany of regret a la Marlon Brando in On The Waterfront: “I could have stayed. I could have waited. I could have gone for it… I think you should. I think you shouldn’t.”


These emotions stem from Gutierrez’s own disappointment with a show he did at the New York City art space, The Kitchen. Watching the tapes a few months after the fact, Gutierrez found the piece uninspired. It left no emotional deposit. Thus, he set out to rediscover himself as both a dancer and a person. “Retrospective Exhibitionist,” marked a new direction for Gutierrez and his work.

Increasingly over the past couple of years, [I’ve become more interested in] how it relates to an interior experience, how it relates to an energetic projection, and how the process of the body accesses other channels of perception.

As Gutierrez shifts gears, he keeps a vigilant eye on the past and often features videos of previous performances in his shows. By blending the past and the present in different media, he works to compare “the feebleness of the present against the rigidity of the past.” MG3.jpg
While his work often references the past, Gutierrez keeps two-stepping into the future: he’s preparing another mixed media solo show called “myendlesslove” for New York’s Mix Festival in November. In that show, Gutierrez will use his body to delve into issues of love and desire in gay communities.

I don’t think there are a lot of poetics of love being offered in gay culture. The piece hopes to combine traditional images of what we perceive as being sexual images and really seeing what the poetics are of those images: where’s the emotion of that? Where’s the tenderness of that? I feel like all I see is violence and aggression.

Then, next March, Gutierrez will perform in “Everyone,” a group piece about being one among many. And, in the end, no matter how much we love ourselves aren’t we all one among many?

All photos: Alex Escalante