Bebe Miller- photo by Julieta Cervantes
Bebe Miller learned from a post-graduate physics student at Ohio State University, where she is a full professor, that 85% of the universe is made up of dark matter we cannot see.
“You don't know why things effect you the way they do but you feel their import from something that is not visible,” she told reporter Steve Sucato. The concept dovetailed with her choreographic instincts. Ever since she started creating her own works almost thirty years ago, Bebe Miller’s choreography has been described as mysterious, perplexing, paradoxical -- alongside other adjectives such as intuitive, empathetic and humane.
Tonight’s work, Necessary Beauty had its world premiere at the Wexner Center for the Arts in Columbus Ohio last fall. It’s a work in which six dancers -- Angie Hauser, Kathleen Hermesdorf, Kristina Isabelle, Cynthia Oliver and Yen-Fang Yu, and, in brief cameos, Miller herself – seem to be tossed along by external gusts and force fields, where right side up and upside down both partake of gravity, and where a collapse is as precise as a pirouette. If this is a dance “about” anything, it is perhaps about the unpredictability of influence -- and how self-awareness is the flip side of self-deception.
In Necessary Beauty family units converge to discuss – or not – their shapes, and how they were shaped by now-hard-to-reconstitute events and interactions. The text that accompanies these portraits was culled from interviews with the dancers as they responded to a writer’s questions. Interestingly enough, the writer in question is the scion of one of post-modern dance’s “royal” families - Ain Gordon, whose parents are David Gordon and Valda Setterfield.
With Bebe Miller’s move to Ohio in 2000, her company went “virtual” gathering for specific projects, working intensively together two to three weeks at a time several times a year, and then connecting during tours. Living in Ohio has given Miller a permanent home and time – both of which she says nourish her art.
Perhaps the most significant of these changed circumstances, however, has turned out to be her access to the artists of Ohio State University's cutting-edge Advanced Computing Center for the Arts and Design (ACCAD). It was in that facility that she developed much of the material and ideas for Landing/Place (presented at Bates in 2005), with video by Maya Ciarrocchi and digital animations by Vita Berezina-Blackburn. Ciarrocchi and Berezina-Blackburn have returned to collaborate with Miller on Necessary Beauty. Their large-screen projections create the settings for episodes that place the dancers in shifting environments from a dark beach to domestic interiors.
Miller’s work with these visual innovators increases the legibility of her work. After all she has to communicate with all of her partners that, for Necessary Beauty include lighting designer Michael Mazzola, dramaturg Talvin Wilks and composer Albert Mathias. But such collaboration also deepens the layers and shifts the focus from Miller’s movement language to a broader, ambient theatricality.
Here and gone. Synchronic and random. Like dancing. Like life.
© 2009 Debra Cash