Preview: Bebe Miller: Tracing History

From the August 23, 2012 edition

It’s a weekday afternoon, and the Mershon Auditorium in the Wexner Center is dark, but buzzing. On stage, a dancer does a slow, poetic convulse on a table. Nearby another dancer moves while wearing headphones and speaking lines from dance articles and personal journals.

A woman with long dreadlocks and a quietly powerful stance watches them closely, arms folded.

“Angie, no words here,” says the woman — choreographer Bebe Miller — to the second dancer.

A screen behind the stage begins to show these words: “My body is possessed by past dances/This is a situation we’ve been in before/ Remembering, Remembering.”

“We used this dance, ‘A History,’ to capture the history of the company and dances but to make new dances, to see what new could come out of the old,” said Talvin Wilks, the show’s dramaturge who has been with Bebe Miller Company since 1998.

The performance of “A History” doesn’t premiere until September, but a complementary gallery show filled with artifacts, journals, video and audio — much selected from the archives at the university’s Theatre Research Institute — of renowned choreographer Bebe Miller opens this week at the OSU Urban Arts Space. Miller is a faculty member of Ohio State’s Dance Department.

Much the same as the dance, remembering the past to inspire the future is key to the “Bebe Miller: Tracing History” exhibition.

“It is a slice of Bebe’s life and work,” said curator Jerry Dannemiller. “Hopefully by shining a light on her career, we’ll also show the really deep process that goes into her development of new work.”

Highlights of the show include videos of dance rehearsals juxtaposed beside videos of the final performances, the floor on which Miller danced “The Hendrix Project,” a vinyl recording of spliced audio of Miller talking about her work, and a video installation about Miller by New York-based artist Maya Ciarrocchi.

“Throughout the 25 years she has worked with her company, Bebe Miller has shown a rare ability to translate the human condition into movement,” Dannemiller said later by email. “She’s an innovator who combines a generous spirit and a deep commitment to collaborative processes with grace and originality. This exhibition will ensure that people around Columbus discover what dance people around the world have known for years.”

Photo by Beatriz Schiller