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Bebe Miller Company

January 22–25, 2004
St. Mark’s Church in-the-Bowery, East Village, New York City

A Review

Last night I went to St. Marks Church to see the Bebe Miller Company performance of her new work, Landing/Place, which is a work in progress.  There is no doubt that Bebe is a highly competent choreographer.  Her handling of motion, be it for a solo or group, is compelling and kinetic, with moments of quiet beauty and muscular awakening.  The dance piece, however, is not just dance.  Video and computer-generated projections encompass this entire presentation and, according to the program, dramaturgy will be added in the future.

A scrim hangs at the “curtain line” and as the program starts, a narrow spotlight at center stage reveals a tiny house over which a bewitching figure hovers.  Video projections of computer-generated moving dots, which define the shape and motion of the dancers, play on the scrim, bleeding through to the stage and background.

Unfortunately, the glorious, light wood floor of the sanctuary reflects too much light, and it prevented the tiny video dots from effectively projecting though the scrim to create life-sized figures on the stage and then giant figures on the cyclorama.  While nothing can be done about the light floor at St. Marks, I might suggest that a gray Marley floor may be employed where possible; it can be colored with various washes at the digression of the lighting designer. At the same time the dancers should be lit without lighting the floor wherever possible to allow us to see the interaction between them and the projected dots.  This would also eliminate the dilemma of where to look — at the moving dots, the dancers, the little house, or the cyclorama.

Early on in the dance a wonderful video was projected on the cyclorama: larger-than-life figures of persons looking on the stage, seeing what we were seeing, but as if from the opposite side of the stage.  Here we did not have to choose where to look.  The “lookers” from the other side and I participated together.  But later on I did have to choose, when the projections became non-participants just passing by and what was going on onstage seemed to have a separate life.  Or, perhaps that was that the point.  I became interested in what would pass the “window” next—a man in work clothes, a woman pushing a stroller.  Perhaps they were looking for “a place to land.”  Were the dancers as well?

At first I was puzzled by the function of the tiny house, but I learned later that a mechanism within it malfunctioned (it was suppose to chirp to let us know it was a birdhouse).  Much further along in the dance the little house is moved, and one sees duplicate houses on poles projected on the scrim.  And then we are treated to projected flights of migrating birds.  A light bulb comes on in my head.  This little house is a birdhouse where birds “land.” It is the title icon—the “landing place.” And probably all this to-do is about “nesting” and finding a place where one can eat, as the last dance of “munching lemons” tells us (which was fun, by the way).

Bebe has really jumped, full body, into the technology future.  More power to her!  I can truly see, through all she has done, the wonderful possibilities that exist there.  It sets my mind buzzing just as her motion gets my muscles twitching.  She has a big chunk of work she has chosen for herself.  Excalibur, and hip, hip hooray for her!

Sharing the program was K. J. Holmes and Company.  I need to see this work at a future time as I feel that my eyes were disadvantaged; I was too full of Landing/Place to look at her Salvage cleanly.  But I note: she has a truly remarkable voice that resonated uniquely in harmony with the sanctuary of St. Marks.

— Ruth Grauert, January 24, 2004

See also the Bearnstow on Parker Pond Web site (Bearnstow.org)
and the Bebe Miller Company residency at Bearnstow next summer.



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