By Damian Bowerman, external relations coordinator for Ohio State Dance
Bessie Award-winning choreographer and Distinguished Professor Emerita in The Ohio State University’s Department of Dance Bebe Miller’s vision of dance and performance resides in her faith in the moving body as a record of thought, experience, and beauty. I caught up with Miller after a rehearsal of her work Flock, which she is staging for Ohio State Dance’s Spring Forward Concert, April 7- 9 in the Barnett Theatre in Sullivant Hall.
Damian: Your dance company’s work encompasses choreography, writing, film, video and digital media. How do you seek to expand the language of dance with Bebe Miller Company (BMC)?
Bebe: We all know dance as a performative art, but having spent my life in this field I think of it as a cumulative, almost daily practice. It’s the conversation between the works we’ve made, the chance to figure out some elusive aspect of a particular piece as we start another, it’s these in-betweens that carry us forward. I love the opportunity to reflect on something I’ve read, or a comment from one of our collaborators that opens up a whole new avenue of research that I hadn’t previously considered. While we were working on a new piece about 10 years ago an astrophysics grad student mentioned how our duet work reminded them of the concept of dark matter: the connection between people was discernible as a kind of gravitational pull rather than something you could actually see. I thought that was fascinating. Since then we’ve been working on archival projects that give people access to our process, through videos, websites and ebooks, rather than only access to our performances of finished works. It’s a way of sharing how we spend most of our time, which is in the development and research process.
Damian: As a native New Yorker who has created more than 50 dance works for the company that have been performed in nearly 400 engagements worldwide, the local dance community is so fortunate to have you call Columbus home. What brought you to Central Ohio?
Bebe: After spending most of my life in NYC I was ready for change, ready for a porch and a garden. Karen Bell, a former dean and vice president at OSU who was the chair of the Department of Dance at the time, offered me a position that would allow me to continue working with my company for part of the year, and have a house (and a porch and a garden!) along with my teaching work at OSU. It was an offer I chose to take — which is different than an offer I couldn’t refuse.
Damian: Committed to keeping dance available to a wide spectrum of people and to further the conversation about the role of arts and creativity in our culture, BMC is dedicated to providing access to the creative process and expression to diverse communities. How has your company realized this goal and how will you continue this conversation?
Bebe: I love teaching, I love talking and working with a range of dance folks; I love dance and what it offers to us as humans, as citizen-animals. We get to notice how we communicate together, how we move together, what we share, how difference is malleable and what we can make in the space between us. I think our ebooks and other archival products offer a way to look at other art forms as well. Once you share the tools then more people have access to their own creativity.
Damian: What’s the best thing about the Columbus art scene right now?
Bebe: I am excited by the variety in the current art scene. The diverse offerings in terms of disciplines, in the artists’ response to current times, the aggregate of voices in our community. I’m loving what’s available in visual arts, the contemporary galleries, as well as the variety of dance performances. And now that we’re emerging from a hard though productive couple of years, I’m charged to see what this spring will bring. We are ready.
Damian: Will you please tell us a little about Flock to be performed Apr. 7-9 in Ohio State Dance’s upcoming Spring Forward Concert?
Bebe: This is a work for nine women, and the theme and concept grew out of being in the same room and seeing who we were and might be, together. I have a bird feeder at home; watching the constant mingling, regrouping and stillness between the birds felt like watching a community spend time together. I’ve enjoyed the metaphor of a distinctive kind of kinship hovering around the studio. It’s been fun to play with that, as well as get to know each other a bit better.
You can see Bebe Miller’s Flock in The Ohio State University Department of Dance’s Spring Forward Concert, Apr. 7-9 at the Barnett Theatre in Sullivant Hall, 1813 N. High St., Columbus, OH 43210. Read more and reserve your free tickets at dance.osu.edu/events/spring-forward-concert.