Interview With Bebe Miller
Disc 2, 04/28/2009 (ca. 50 min.). Bebe Miller speaks with Candace Feck about her childhood anxiety and reading as a creative influence; her experiences as an undergraduate at Earlham College; her siblings' pursuits as young adults, including the impact of her sister's visit to Ghana, and her own subsequent introduction to African dance forms; reasons she left New York to attend Earlham; influential civil rights events that occurred during Miller's childhood and young adulthood; more about her life at Earlham; her dance experiences at that time, mainly with folk dance, forming a dance club, and attending a Merce Cunningham master dance class; an off-campus study term on art, in New York; how she spent her summers during her college years, including a cross-country road trip with her mother in 1969; returning to New York after college and her mother's illness.
Disc 3, 05/05/2009 (ca. 70 min.). Bebe Miller speaks with Candace Feck about how she got her nickname Bebe; (briefly) her father; her mother's influence and personality; other childhood teachers and mentors, including pianist Frank White at the Henry Street Settlement; growing up as an African American in the 1950s and 1960s, and how this influenced the development of her identity as an artist; more on the emotional impact of integrating white communities; the development of her artistic voice; an anecdote about her style as a dancer; more on her student days, at Earlham; applying for graduate school in library science, and dance, including an anecdote about her dance audition at OSU [Ohio State University]; her acceptance to the OSU program, not having the money to attend, and returning to New York; her next few years in New York, her mother's illness and death; attending professional dance classes in Manhattan; her experiences while pursuing her Master of Fine Arts at OSU, including dancing with guest artists, in particular, working with Lynn Dowley and Twyla Tharp; her return to New York to pursue being an artist, and dancing for Nina Wiener's company [Nina Wiener and Dancers]; memories of ballet classes and teachers in New York in the late 1970s; (briefly) experiences in the Wiener company
Disc 4, 05/05/2009 (ca. 33 min.). Bebe Miller speaks with Candace Feck about her economic situation while living in New York as a young dancer; performing and touring with Wiener until 1982, meeting Dana Reitz while on tour, and performing with Reitz from 1982 through 1983; an early solo she choreographed in 1978 performed at Dance Theater Workshop; her transition into choreographing her own dances; her early works being produced by Dance Theater Workshop; gaining representation through Pentacle in 1985; the early years of her dance company [Bebe Miller and Dancers; later Bebe Miller Company], including dancers, auditions, finances, and tours; the transition from performer to choreographer; an anecdote about developing as a performer in Wiener's company; her ambitions as a choreographer; her work Habit of attraction as a turning point in her choreographic method; receiving her first Bessie [informal name for The New York Dance and Performance Awards] in 1986 for her work Gypsy pie, created while in residence at Jacob's Pillow [in Lee, Mass.]; her admiration for other choreographers at that time, including Susan Marshall; her working at jobs other than choreographing in order to support herself until she received a grant from the Guggenheim Foundation [John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation]; other grants and awards she received during the late 1980s; her relationship with Hearn Gadbois, the musician, and his impact on her work; her first marriage, of three years, to Jack Robinson in the early 1980s.
Disc 5, 045/19/2009 (ca. 67 min.). Bebe Miller speaks with Candace Feck about the first decade of her dance company [Bebe Miller and Dancers; later Bebe Miller Company]; her choreographic process in The habit of attraction, including the influence of Scott Smith; Smith and Nikki Castro in The habit of attraction; not performing in her own work for the first time and using improvisational processes to choreograph; the beginning of her long standing relationship with the Bates Dance Festival in Maine; how residencies help develop a sense of community in the company; her work Thick sleep; her works Rain and Allies performed at the Brooklyn Academy of Music [BAM] Next Wave Festival in 1989; the works, cast, and collaboration with the photographer Robert Flynt for the BAM performances; the origin and choreographic processes in making the solo Rain and her current attempts to remount it; the critical response, her personal response, and the impact the BAM performances had on the company's status in the dance community; resulting performances in New York, and touring Europe through the early 1990s; several works in the late 1980s that were influenced by rock and roll music; becoming a producer of choreographic works; obtaining a company manager, and booking agent through Pentacle; her relationship with Hearn Gadbois; collaborating with Ralph Lemon on Two; participating in the Parallels project; the idea of post-black art and how it relates to Miller's experiences; several anecdotes about the challenges of marketing her work, and audience responses; being pigeonholed as an African American artist during the late 1980s, and the social shifts that have occurred since; post-performance discussions and learning how to discuss her work publicly; her collaborations for the dance The Hendrix project in 1991, including the opening performances, and obtaining the music rights; her work Nothing can happen only once and the collaborators, including the writer Ain Gordon.
Disc 6, 05/19/2009 (ca. 63 min.). Bebe Miller speaks with Candace Feck about how reading books influences her choreography; the founding dancers of her company leaving after Nothing can happen only once, and her first work with new dancers in Tiny sisters in the enormous land, in 1994; the artistic and communicative development that occurs through working with the same dancers for long periods; how she found the replacement dancers, and the stress of auditions; several other works, including Blessed and her South African work Yard dance; visiting South Africa as the first African American performer after the end of apartheid; Going to the wall as her next major work, and collaborating with dramaturge Talvin Wilks; an anecdote about the inspiration for her 1998 work Going to the wall and the processes used to create it; her 2001 work Verge; more personnel changes in the company at that time; reasons for her decision to leave New York to teach at OSU; changing the structure of the company to become more project-based; the technical elements, choreographic processes, collaborators, and performers in her 2005 work Landing/Place; her awards; her current day-to-day life as a professor; participating in dance community galas and special events; her views on teaching; reminiscences about the intimacy of company life, touring, and collaborating; her recent marriage to David Gray; reminiscences about daily life with her company as compared to teaching choreography class; her current projects, including a new duet she is working on with Darrell Jones and Angie Hauser.
Dubbing master: *MGZTD 4-2591 no. 1-6
Archival transcript: *MGZMTO 3-2591
African American artists
Racism and the arts
New York State Council on the Arts, 2008-2009
Oral history archive. Oral history project
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