Bebe Miller Company previews new works at Bates Dance Festival

The Bebe Miller Company returns to the Bates Dance Festival to debut two of the vibrant choreographer’s latest works Aug. 7 and Aug. 8 at 8 p.m. in Schaeffer Theatre, located on the Bates College campus. The performances feature Miller’s newest collaboration, Going to the Wall, an aesthetic examination of cultural identity with an original score by award-winning jazz clarinetist Don Byron, and Blessed, based on Miller’s work in South Africa, with music by an Australian a cappella group. Tickets are $14/$8 (students and seniors) and may be purchased over the phone by calling 207-786-6161.

In Going to the Wall, Miller and Byron, as African Americans working in genres historically served by whites, explore a dialogue about identity, aesthetics and politics. As collaborative partners, with Byron’s original work in klezmer, Latin and contemporary as well as jazz, and Miller’s intuitive and personal brand of post-modern choreography, the stimulating investigation of race and culture continues.

Following its preview performances at the Bates Dance Festival, Going to the Wall will have its world premiere in September at The Hopkins Center at Dartmouth College. This work is made possible, in part, with funding from The Rockefeller Multi-Arts Production Fund and Meet the Composer’s Inc.

Blessed is a full company work with music recorded by The Cafe of the Gate of Salvation, an Australian a cappella group devoted to African-American traditional gospel sounds and featured on the soundtrack of the Jane Campion film Sweetie. The Village Voice calls Blessed: “…big, hot and juicy…the excellent dancers in ‘Blessed’ propel themselves to a state of grace.”

The Bebe Miller Company, including Frances Craig, Steven Edwards, Sarah Gamblin, Ted Johnson, Darrell Jones, Bebe Miller, Anthony Phillips, Melissa Wynn and Cheng-Chieh Yu, began touring and performing in the United States and throughout the world during the 1985-86 season.

Miller, who received her master’s degree from The Ohio State University in 1975, has been making dances for almost 20 years. Her interest in finding a physical language for the human condition is a connecting thread throughout her work, stemming from Two, a duet made in collaboration with choreographer Ralph Lemon in 1986. In recent years, she has been investigating the mix of theatrical narrative and abstract movement as a way to expand this physical language, notably in Nothing Can Happen Only Once (1993) and Tiny Sisters in the Enormous Land (1995). She has received fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, the New York Foundation for the Arts, the John Simon Guggenheim Foundation, an American Choreographer Award and two New York Dance and Performance awards (BESSIES).

Don Byron has been deeply involved in the most adventurous circles of the New York music scene for the past decade and garnered international recognition as the foremost innovator on jazz clarinet. Named Down Beat’s Jazz Artist of the Year in 1990, he topped the Down Beat Critics’ Poll as top clarinetist for five consecutive years, and the Down Beat Readers’ Poll since 1995, all the while striving relentlessly for what he calls “a sound above genre.” His four recordings on Nonesuch, including Tuskegee Experiments, Don Byron Plays the Music of Mickey Katz, Music for Six Musicians and Bug Music, all have received world-wide acclaim. In 1998, he signed an exclusive agreement with Blue Note Records, which will release its first disc, Nu Blaxploitation, with Byron’s ensemble Existential Dred in July. In 1997 he was named artistic director of jazz at the Brooklyn Academy of Music (BAM), where he develops jazz at the Next Wave Festival, programs weekends of jazz in the Leperque Space Cafe and performs for BAM’s new educational programs.

Audiences are invited to attend Inside Dance: Understanding Contemporary Performance, a talk by noted dance historian, writer and educator Suzanne Carbonneau. The Bates Dance Festival presents this series of pre- and post-performance talks in an effort to enhance understanding and increase appreciation for contemporary dance. Carbonneau will discuss the work of Miller as a way of providing a road map through the curious land of post modernism. This free half-hour talk will take place Aug. 8 at 7:15 p.m in Schaeffer Theatre on College Street.

In addition to its critically acclaimed mainstage performance series of 13 concerts, the festival offers two intensive training programs, one for pre-professionals and one for younger dancers. For more information, or to request a brochure, call the Bates Dance Festival at 207-786-6381.

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