As part of its ongoing Process v. Product Festival, the Dance Center of Columbia College presents “In a Rhythm,” a new collection of dances by Bessie Award-winning choreographer Bebe Miller. Inspired in part by culturally-relevant writers David Foster Wallace, Toni Morrison and Gertrude Stein, Miller navigates the undercurrents of adaptation and translation as she takes a deep look at the syntax of movement—the interplay of action and context in time and in space.
According to Miller, “In a Rhythm” was an experiment in process from the onset. Over the course of two years, she and her collaborators engaged in roaming creative sessions which involved convening with her dynamic cast in the studio to generate movement and derive meanings that evolved alongside the piece. Through this practice, Miller developed a rich kinetic language with organically interwoven thematic elements surrounding race, art and identity in today’s complex cultural landscape.
Throughout the piece, filled with subtle focus, rhythms and gestures, Miller eloquently interjects ideas and stories that provide direct access to her intent and create real time context for the dance to occur within. The overarching sequence of events is carefully arranged to build meaning over time as one section unfolds into the next. In perhaps one of the most poignant moments, dancer Michelle Boulé performs a solo to Donny Hathaway’s “I Love You More Than You’ll Ever Know” as the rest of the cast, including Miller, witnesses her expressive delivery. The vulnerable strength Boulé channeled through her body was striking in juxtaposition to rigid bolts of felt fabric used to create scenic contrast and depth on stage.
“Everything is here,” Miller says of the piece. “Everything is available. What’s left is choice,” which fittingly encapsulates not only the process of the piece but also its central message. “In a Rhythm” offers a broad cross section of our cultural moment cut by the critical empathy of Miller and her collaborators. The effect is a powerful artistic experience that leaves the audience openhearted and with a greater sense of connection.
Apropos of the Process v. Product Festival theme, this seventy-five-minute show is part of a larger project by Miller and choreographer Susan Rethorst, “The Making Room,” which investigates pioneering ways to make the creative process more accessible to audiences. To learn more, visit themakingroom.org. (Alyssa Motter)
At the Dance Center of Columbia College, 1306 South Michigan, (312)369-8330. Friday and Saturday, April 6 and 7 at 7:30pm. $10-$30. Tickets at tickets.colum.edu.