Bebe Miller, a choreographer, director, and performer, is currently collaborating with On the Boards in Seattle for a 2017 conference, “Vault: Capturing and Sharing the Dance-Making Process.”
It takes me a minute or two of watching her to take in what Angie is doing. I feel like I’m reading her timing, with her, and then in retrospect I know what she’s said. She leads me toward the threshold of the present moment. I watch her head first: her eyes take in the scope of the room in front of her (the imagined one); her hands have found other items to attend to—not in a finger-y, busy way, more like semaphores on the move.
In the company, we work with “story-ness”—an exploration of intention and focus that keeps history and future at play. When Angie is performing, that sense of story-ness is palpable, fully embodied. You get a sense of choices that the present moment contains. She communicates this physically—through spatial orientation, sequence of actions, gaze—but you feel it like the personal consequence of a tricky line of reasoning.
Darrell starts off with a bang. He steps forward and begins scripting the space.
Follow the outline of what you imagine in front of you. Follow with your eyes, back of head, fingertips, until you fold your body over and your feet take over the task, keeping you upright until the floor rises up and becomes the ceiling for a second, while your hands, eyes, belly have moved on to the next set of items to trace in the space around you—all in a matter of seconds, always doing two things at once, so fast that you let go of specificity and it becomes flow, the flow of information passing through your body, too fast to judge, let alone remember.
He pauses because he’s out of breath. I’ve asked him to count anything—everything—he sees while he gets his wind back. So he’s not really pausing, he’s just changed his mode of scripture, standing still with an active mind. He might count you. Then he starts again.
This time you make a point of traveling around the stage because I’ve asked you to do that, though you might not realize that you hadn’t been doing that before. Something’s different: slower? And you might see a shadow of someone you don’t know but you recognize anyway, a shiny character in the syncopation between two feet. The back of your neck stiffens like you’re reaching for a high note. . . . Your pelvis carves a tight curl fast, making your feet shimmy before you stretch out to almost horizontal like a bat sweeping under some tree.
He stops once more—hands on his knees, deep breaths, head hanging down—but not for long. He goes again before you know it.
This is the “Ralph Dance,” stolen from your last dance together and kept for this future purpose, something you’re still learning from, something you’re so fast at, bent in half and twirling, throwing up your arms and showing your throat, praise be! Your head spins on your neck, your eyes close and you manage to know where you are long enough to plan your descent, aim, and roll all of yourself downhill.