The origin of A History

Feb 01, 2013

by Natalie Wilson, Women of Substance Project Coordinator

On Tue, Feb 12, Northrop and The O’Shaughnessy at St. Catherine University present Bebe Miller Company’s work, A History. This piece, both video installation and dance performance, is a retrospective of Miller’s work as a choreographer, dancer, and educator over the last 20 years. I was fortunate enough to see this piece when it was presented at Yerba Buena Center for the Arts. The installation welcomes you into the world of the work. Tall pieces of blackboard paper feature hand written notes, photographs, and pieces of inspiration from previous work. Television monitors invite you to watch past dances and listen to commentary from Miller and the company. There is also a projection rotating through faces and personalities of dancers who have spent time with the company over the 20-year expanse of its history. Spending some extended time with the installation gave me context for the work and insight into the process that created it. Be sure to view the installation yourself in the lobby of The O’Shaughnessy on the evening of the performance!

The dance piece is an evening-long duet featuring Darrell Jones and Angie Hauser, company members and dance partners for over 13 years. The two dance athletically and in complete complement of each other. The audience truly gains insight into the working relationship shared by the pair as they relive onstage the work of Bebe Miller Company. Video footage complements the duet and provides an even deeper look into the history of the company and the relationship of Jones and Hauser. The two improvise and recreate scenes from some of the company’s most lauded performances while letting the audience into their creative process. There is a feeling that we are “in the room” with the dancers, experiencing their creative collaboration.

I sat down with Bebe Miller and talked about the creation of the piece. We talked about one of the piece’s central themes, the idea of “remembering remembering.” For Miller, this idea inspired thinking differently about a way to present a retrospective. She did not want to present a chronological map of the work of the company, but instead created a piece that captured the essence of the work. It was important for her to present a completely new and dynamic piece that showed audiences how the dancers live in the dance. As Miller told me, “I can’t emphasize enough: we may have performed the work along the way, but then they live it onstage. They are living in it on a daily basis, in the room. It’s not completely different; it’s responsive to the moment. If anything, it’s re-emphasizing that we are responsive to our moments.”

Jones and Hauser not only perform scenes from Miller’s work, but they also improvise and are encouraged to react to the energy onstage as they would “in the room.” Miller told me that she wanted the audience to get that inside look at their partnership as a way to show how crucial human relationships are in the remembering of history. She says, “There is so much of Angie and Daryl’s relationship that shows up. It changes every night. It feels like it is real. Angie was saying in the Q&A, every night it is real, that’s what they have and that’s who they are. That is the only way to tell this story.”

I asked Miller about her time as a teacher and what she hoped to teach through the presentation of A History. She said that she hoped her career would teach others that they can have an artistic voice and should feel free to use it. She says, “I want people to see the work and realize, ‘Oh I can find something in the arts where I can find me, not a pretend me.’ I want to show that it is possible to find a space and live in it where you are really yourself.”

Experience the reactionary memory of A History yourself on Tue, Feb 12, 7:30 pm at The O’Shaughnessy at St. Catherine University!

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