The Making Room

Investigating innovative ways of sharing the creative process from start to premiere

Convening #3, northampton

january 17–20, 2017: smith college


Three months after Convening #2 in Columbus, Ohio, and almost a year after Bebe and Sue’s first gathering, we meet at Smith College in January 2017. By now we are a group of 14:

  • 2 choreographers, Bebe Miller and Susan Rethorst

  • 9 dance artists: Michelle Boulé, Christal Brown, Sarah Gamblin, Angie Hauser, Darrell Jones, Bronwen MacArthur and Trebien Pollard work with Bebe; Michelle Stortz and Gabrielle Revlock work with Sue

  • 1 project manager, Lila Hurwitz

  • 1 video artist, Lily Skove

  • 1 production and lighting designer, Stan Pressner

  • Last but not least, Sarah Lass, a Smith MFA in Dance who documented the process

We take the time to share a BMC improvisation score, the cut-to-the-chase exploration that will become the At Speed section. Michelle and Gabi haven’t begun their day with Sue so there’s time to play. This particular way of dancing together brings us all to a shared kinetic impulse, regardless of whether this is “keeper” material.

Both groups continue their progress on their own. Each group works individually to remember and reset. We work in Scott Gym, a large, deep space. There’s enough room for both groups to work at the same time, allowing for an interesting overlap of choreographic purpose. Here, Sue’s directing chair bisects the depth of the space, Michelle and Gabi talk with her, Bronwen shows Bebe a snippet, Angie reviews a sequence off to the side.

Bebe almost always sees this kind of overlap as "the dance that got away." The rhythm of these different kinds of thinking and moving is incredibly hard to capture. As with most found bits, re-living the impulse instead of re-making it is what’s called for.

Michelle and Gabi show their duet.

Bebe notes:

  • One at a time-ness is overpowering
  • One at a time of what?

  • Very particular—
    • Bebe’s approach: What is this?

    • Sue’s approach: It is this

Lily’s view: Bebe and Sue discuss “This” at the public showing.

Although we’re speaking of a matter of fact-ness in tempo and approach, Bebe and Sue’s fundamental drive (What Is This? It Is This) shows up. The two approaches—one as a question, the other as a statement—remain side by side, not contradictory, a reference point as we move on.

BMC shows the current version of At Speed that segues into a rough draft No Moves (the shift happens 30 seconds in). We note our different ways of approaching relational-ness:

  • Susan: putting different things into motion and bringing them together

  • Bebe: building material from the relational from the beginning

Meanwhile, Lily has been filming the convening rehearsals. Her interest is in "seeing and looking inside dancing," rather than documenting the rehearsal process. Her eye for detail and the peripheral moments is clear.

We put the two bits—Michelle and Gabi’s duet plus At Speed-to-No Moves—together in the space, as overlapping dances.

Compilation of moments for Sue’s work

Lily’s view of BMC at SCDT

We finish the convening with the end-of-residency showing at Northampton’s School for Contemporary Dance and Thought. We show the work of each choreographer, then show the overlapped version as well.

The full showing