Bebe Miller — Landing/Place

Dance Theater Workshop, New York City, October 13, 14, & 15, 2005

A Review (the third viewing)

Over the past two years I had seen Bebe Miller’s Landing/Place two times, once at St. Mark’s in NYC and once at the Bates Festival in Lewiston, ME.  So, of course, I debated seeing it again.  Then out of love and curiosity I got myself together and went.  This time it was presented in the restructured Dance Theater Workshop on West 19th St. in NYC, and I am really glad I went.

What Bebe, her dancers and her media collaborators have accomplished from the performance at St Mark’s in winter 2004 to this performance at DTW is like “making a silk purse from a sow’s ear.”  The steep rake of the DTW theatre is helpful to the viewer; one sees the stage floor, which give one a truly three-dimensional screen for the décor and motion.  But the setting would count for naught had not Bebe taken the “bull by the horns” and seen to it that her aesthetic elements—the video projections, the template projections, the sound and the motion—supported her vision.  And (with a mite of aesthetic insight) she has made Landing/Place a multi-media work of art.

The various projections, video and template, create atmospheres in which motion is conceived.  Although each atmosphere was satisfyingly associated with a unique motion premise, the development of the premise did not always follow through and instead developed into a familiar indulgent, driving “go-go-go.”  I become fatigued with constantly driving motion that has no other distinction.  Those sections in which the unique premise was developed and not abandoned (the opening incantation, the tree sequence, the lemon dance) were positively magnificent and made me forget the numbness the driving motion had produced.

When I view art, I put myself in a special place where I wipe clean the slate of previous perceptions and abandon myself to “see with the painter, listen with the musician, move with the dancer.”  The lack of preconception allows a full “being” experience and is akin to the state of true improvisation.  (Perhaps I am a disturbance to those seated next to me at a concert, for I know that I must wiggle and twitch.)  In this way I enter the art and “know” it.  But when suddenly I am abandoned in my path and I become a critical spectator, “the art’s done me wrong.”  In this production of Landing/Place, strong overhead lighting occasionally washed away the environment, and all that was left was the driving “go-go-go.”

There are three sections of text.  And although words use a different part of the brain from aesthetic intake, the first section seems to evoke images in much the same manner as the projections, and they contributed to my aesthetic experience.  The next two sections seem to be trying to explain this work, to present a philosophy.  Now that sort of text is a “fore-brain” thing.  I found that my struggle to comprehend truly interfered with my sensing experience.  I feel that this could be fixed with some judicious editing, e.g., selecting “prime” words to speak.  These latter two texts, as they were used, kept me jumping from sensing to thinking, and art was lost.

It was a great evening for me. I saw so much more of Landing/Place than I had previously.  This would seem to justify long-term support for art. Works like this can never truly be finished.  And I am grateful that Bebe and her cohorts have had this time to work.  Congratulations on your twenty years of dance making, Bebe!  Let’s have more like Landing/Place.

—Ruth E. Grauert, October 15, 2005


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