The Making Rooma collaboration between Bebe Miller and Susan Rethorst
Bebe Miller and Susan Rethorst convene at Smitth College,
Northhampton, Massachusetts, January 1720, 2017
Disclaimer: Bebe Miller and I are friends from summer camp at Bearnstow, where I was introduced to modern dance and improvisation. When Ruth Grauert, Bearnstow director, asked me to write a review for Bearnstow Journal, I basically said, “but I’m her friend, and I’m going to a dress rehearsal, how can I write an objective review?” Fortunately, there are professional reviewers such as Elizabeth Zimmer of The Village Voice who have written excellent descriptions of the performance, so I’m off the hook and can simply share with you some of what I saw, thought, and felt.
In the lobby of New York Live Arts, there were two screens showing videos of the dances in the making. Capturing the process is part of The Making Room project you can see a growing amount of information about it online at http://themakingroom.org. There were three rolls of black carpeting with white writing, like a fluid blackboard. The rolls talked about experiences and readings that influenced Bebe Miller for In a Rhythm, including some from Bearnstow that I recognized.
Susan Rethorst: Stealing from Myself
Gregory Holt and Gabrielle Revlock in Stealing from Myself ~ Photo by Robert Altman (Click image to view slide show of more Robert Altman photos of this dance.)
When the dance started, all I knew was that Susan Rethorst had built a new dance from duets she created in the past. In part, I wondered what the original dances were like. In part, I just enjoyed the new dance, which I thought might be about a college romance. Two students meet in the library (2 chairs, books, white floor, white light, silence). They study together (they bring the chairs close together, they overlap books on the floor). They find common dreams (splash of colored lights, emotional music). They fall in love (they leap across the floor together, they play together). They gently fall out of love and go back to being two students in the silent library.
Gabrielle Revlock and Gregory Holt were a pleasure to watch. I liked the arrangements, timing, and use of space.
Bebe Miller Company: In a Rhythm
Trebien Pollard, Angie Hauser, Bronwen MacArthur, Michelle Boulé, and Sarah Gamblin in In a Rhythm ~ Photo by Robert Altman (Click image to view slide show of more Robert Altman photos of this dance.)
In a Rhythm is a layered dance. It started casually, with dancers gathering together, warming up, communicating with each other. Casual communication between dancers is one of the layers.
At several points, Bebe Miller read from notes, telling us about literary works and personal experiences that influenced this particular dance. She talked about syntax, about the way the authors choose and arrange words to communicate meaning. From the New York Live Arts event online blurb, I understood that she was “looking at the syntax of movement — how we apprehend meaning through the juxtaposed dynamics of action and context in time and space.” This verbal, intellectual communication is another layer.
If writing reads well, I don’t notice the syntax. And that happened here. These dancers worked together seamlessly and beautifully. Movements, rhythms, arrangements, groupings were interesting, varied, and flowed from one to the other. I became caught up, and enjoyed it thoroughly. In this layer, the communication was abstract, subliminal, joyful.
I wondered where the idea of the carpet rolls came from. The black carpet rolls in the lobby were echoed by gray and white carpet rolls on the dance floor some rolled up, some opened and carpet squares that the dancers wore at times. I liked the physical texture and visual design element they added, like visiting a friends apartment.
I recommend that you see dances from The Making Room if you have a chance In a Rhythm is being performed in Seattle in March and in Chicago in April, 2018. Also, I encourage you to check out The Making Room portal, which is being fleshed out now at http://themakingroom.org.