Bebe Miller's company dances with wit, delight

March 14, 1994|By J. L. Conklin | J. L. Conklin,Special to The Sun

The three works presented by Bebe Miller and her company Saturday night as part of the Off the Walls Series at the Baltimore Museum of Art were filled with such intelligence and wit that you couldn't help but be enchanted by both the choreographer and her dances.

From the other-worldly "Heaven and Earth," a solo for Ms. Miller and an excerpt from a group work to be premiered later this year, the society of women in "Tiny Sisters" or the Latin-flavored romantic duets in "Cantos Gordos," each dance had its own unique flavor and movement dialect.

Bebe Miller is an artist with a sense of humor and humanity. What is special about Ms. Miller's work is her extensive movement vocabulary and her remarkable ability to magnify our everyday interactions and our common gestures.

She also has an uncanny skill at splicing segments together and is able to contrast and select ideas and movements that complement and elucidate each other. But most important, she has a highly developed sense of play.

Her well-constructed dances are permeated with the feeling of chance. Unison magically blooms from a tangle of movements that at first glance seem unrelated. She works her rhythms and our expectations. The joy of watching her dances becomes not only a delight in the kinetic response to the rhythms but the thrill of discovery.

In "Tiny Sisters," four women dressed in filmy, flowing pants and tunics wear men's leather shoes on their feet. The hard sound of hard soles slapping the stage in flamenco-inspired rhythms was in sharp contrast to the soft lyricism of their arms. When one woman removed her shoes, we were riveted. Yet, Ms. Miller is not predictable; this dancer's demonstration of individualism does not influence her sisters.

The duets in "Cantos Gordos" are the meat of the dance. Ever-changing couples deconstruct tangos, sambas and other popular Latin dances to the jazz music of Don Byron. At one point, in the midst of two duets, Ms. Miller enters the space as if she has just found a party in progress. She dances wildly, stops, then leaves as if she were on her way to the next party -- and we all want to follow her.

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