Madeline Maxine Gorman (she/her)
Madeline Maxine Gorman (she/her) is a talkative and loud person. That’s due in part to bad hearing, but mostly because she has always been passionate about conveying important messages. A Maryland native, Max navigates the world as a queer, disabled, and neurodivergent person.
Recently featured in Dance Magazine’s 25 to Watch, Max’s choreography is “intellectually probing, politically minded and personally revelatory” (Dance Magazine). She is the Artistic Director of GRIDLOCK Dance, a contemporary dance company based in Washington, DC that uncovers societal thorns and inspires everyday awakenings through collaborative performances and art-making. Described as a “raw talent” and “a treasure that can push her and the dance community in the right direction” (Charm City Dance), Max’s work examines the relationships between mass media, mental health, and movement.
Most recently, Max’s work Veritas was part of the 2023 Atlas INTERSECTIONS Festival and Washington City Paper says that the work “boldly explores technology’s downsides.” In 2022, Max was Local Motion Project’s Artist in Residence and selected for Dance Place’s inaugural Dance and Disability residency. During the Dance Place residency, she partnered with Art Enables, a nonprofit that provides resources for artists with disabilities, to connect with and compensate other artists with disabilities for sharing their feedback on a new piece.
In 2021, GRIDLOCK was commissioned by Joe’s Movement Emporium to present Veritas. Through interactive technology and misinformation, Veritas mirrors how voyeurism, escapism, and sensationalism influence understandings of truth in everyday life. In 2019, Max’s self-produced and sold-out show ADDICT raised more than $4,000 for a new homeless shelter in Baltimore, specifically serving women affected by addiction. An ADDICT excerpt was voted Audience Favorite in the Ascending Choreographer’s Festival.
As an educator, Max has taught a diverse range of populations, including pre-professional dancers, seasoned movers, college football players, and theater actors. Max partners with On Our Own of Maryland, a behavioral health nonprofit, to create and conduct workshops on arts advocacy and movement for self-care to young adults with mental health and substance use struggles. Max has also led workshops on arts advocacy to young adults with disabilities through the nonprofit Independence Now.
Max graduated as commencement speaker from Towson University with her B.F.A. in Dance and B.S. in Mass Communication. During college, she received the Honors College Award, the Kaplan Award, the Research Impact Award, and the Outstanding Choreography Award.
Growing up, there was a painting in my childhood home that I walked past every day. It was an antique that my Mother likely got while at an auction, or maybe she inherited it from her thrift-loving Grandmother. Held within a large, gold-leaf frame, the oils depicted a woman hanging laundry out to dry. The brushstrokes captured the clothes billowing in the breeze. A massive tree loomed over the scene.
It meant nothing to me.
It wasn’t until after years of walking past that painting that I noticed something new. A bit faded and blotchy, the painter had depicted a small girl hidden in the tree’s branches. Almost entirely concealed within the leaves, she watched the scene from a distance.
Relatable. Provoking. And most curious of all, hiding in plain sight.
These kinds of everyday awakenings are what I constantly pursue in my choreography. My goal as an artist is to stir audience members to a higher state of awareness, inviting them to look closer, investigate further, and connect more deeply with themselves through art.
I invoke this heightened state through experiments with the pervasive undercurrents of mass media, mental health, and movement. These three areas are a common thread in the human experience. The average person sees between 4,000 and 10,000 advertisements in a single day. More than 50% of Americans will be diagnosed with a mental illness in their lifetime. And each day we move through this life, taking in 22,000 breaths.
Like many people around the world, I’ve spent the past two years mostly at home. I’m in bed as I write this and surrounded by the usual suspects—a pair of uncharged headphones, one fidget cube, two reusable ice packs, three blankets (one heated), and a plethora of pillows. On my right is a nightstand stuffed with medications and a stack of religious texts—filled with less-than-comforting answers to the questions I’ve been asking my entire life.
I navigate the world as a queer, disabled, and neurodivergent person. My relationship with my identities impacts both my artistic process and the work itself. Working through the intersections of my identities and artistic goals, my work is frequently centered on themes of addiction, disability, religion, and misinformation.
My choreographic vocabulary is focused on the opposing ends of movement–effort and ease. I’m deeply interested in movement that demonstrates both electrifying energy and true rest. I believe that the layering of production elements provides more outlets for audience members to connect with the work. I frequently partner with designers, composers, visual artists, poets, and nonprofit organizations to create multi-layered pieces.
The feelings that I experienced when I saw the girl in the painting remind me of my goals as an artist. I position audiences to feel curious. I necessitate audiences to experience unease. And most importantly, I compel audiences to reflect deeply on how they move through life.
For me as a choreographer, community engagement is essential to creating meaningful and impactful performances. By involving the local community in the artistic process, I can better understand the community’s unique perspectives and bring them into my work.
Community engagement is my favorite part of my artistic process. There are many ways that I will explore engaging with the community on this piece, including gathering submissions on questions related to work and self-image that could become part of the soundscape, inviting community dancers to participate in a performance, and soliciting feedback during the performance.
Ultimately, community engagement is crucial for me to create work that is both artistically excellent and socially relevant.
Community engagement is my favorite part of my artistic process. There are many ways to engage the community on this piece, including gathering submissions on questions related to work and self-image that could become part of the soundscape, inviting community dancers to participate in a performance, and soliciting feedback during the performance.
Why did you apply for the Arts Lab?
Programs like the Atlas Arts Lab Fellowship are crucial for supporting and advancing the work of local artists. This program offers artists like me the time, space, and freedom to experiment, take risks, and create new work that pushes boundaries and inspires audiences. I applied for the Arts Lab for these opportunities, but also to connect with other artists in the cohort. I wanted to build relationships with other DC artists to gain new ideas and contribute to a thriving artistic community at the Atlas.
What have you already gained from being in the program?
The Atlas Arts Lab Fellowship offers a unique opportunity for me to focus on my craft and gain the support I need to create new work. We’re already hard at work creating a new piece called Tooth and Claw that we’re excited to premiere this June. I’m experimenting with new choreographic techniques for this work, which is possible through the studio space provided by this fellowship. I can already tell that this fellowship is going to take my creative process to the next level.Why do you support the Atlas?
The Atlas is all about community, and it shows through the organization’s work. Supporting Atlas means supporting DC artists and our creative economy. I’m honored to be part of this program and I look forward to supporting the Atlas through my community engagement efforts as part of this fellowship.
What are you working on?
I’m working on a new piece called Tooth and Claw that’s inspired by Tall Poppy Syndrome–an expression referring to when people are attacked, resented, disliked, criticized, or cut down because of their achievements. I’m exploring this idea using metaphors of capitalism, the myth of American exceptionalism, and the idea of “quiet quitting” that has become a buzzword in recent months. Since the onset of the pandemic, an issue of our time has been the relationship between work and self. I’m interested in exploring how media influences our understanding of work and how that impacts individuals and groups, particularly women and gender minorities.