dance making / improvisation / Uncategorized

Improvisation with Bebe

My first semester of graduate school was Bebe Miller’s last semester on faculty in the Dance Department at Ohio State. I swam in her soup for the semester, sometimes reluctant, resistant and often fearful. She would call us into circles before and after improvisational scores and talk about tone and texture and willfulness.  All of this resonates in my language and in my body as I move forward in this program, but overarching all of this, the class was about trusting myself and trusting the group, two resources I was lacking, more than usual, as a new student in this prestigious institution.

We kept journals of our practice and I’m sharing my midterm and final reflections here, because they give me some evidence that, while I thought I was just trying to get through each moment of being visible to others, I was learning and landing in other ways.

October 22, 2016

One of the big things I’m wondering about for myself is the play that goes beyond outside of getting it. This idea of attuning enough to each other that rules can be an introduction to the day and we don’t have to find out how to make the rules work for us or make ourselves work within the rules, because maybe the rules can be a vocabulary to share.

I have a strong desire to feel cohesive, to trust and instinctually know the movement of others and I’ve begun to find that in sometimes surprising places. At the start of the year, physical contact with others made me feel like I suddenly did not know my own limbs, and lately the activities we’ve done have included moments of being propelled and motivated by contact.

I question the element of risk for myself, sometimes it seems like I avoid certain pairings or movement out of fear of lacking virtuosity. Sometimes I find myself in a bit of rough housing because impact gives me greater sense of my own body and space. Sometimes I am afraid of pushing things too far the wrong way, of not knowing people’s boundaries and being careless with their wishes.


My first experience with Meg Stuart scores was being dead in a room full of people. So much of my deadness was felt by the mass of stillness across bodies. I held onto one idea– that maybe the body I was in moved a little while dead. Bebe read it in the score and I imagined it. With this one caveat, I could enjoy being dead and the small movement of my top rib rising and falling, gradually shifting the drape of body on the floor. A sensing anchor like this has been meaningful throughout our improvisations. I found it also when we invited, compelled, asked for a partner with our back body. My kinesthetic, surface sense comes into focus and my visual processing takes second. With the visual as a secondary sense, my analytical mind takes a backseat and I get to be present, bodied in a different way. I am finding out, what is this interaction right now and not what it could be.

As Bebe calls us from the dead, I imagine waking up in a new body, or being in a body for the first time, and what does it mean to be in a skilled body for the first time? I am not doing Feldenkreiss and returning to the developmental phases. I don’t have to start with core distal, but can I stay in this newness enough to find new patterns or enjoy old patterns freshly? It seems so. The group is unburdened, without cleverness and full of effort. Sound comes, propels, wanes, creates rhythm. I do not see myself outside.


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