Arts & Life Editor

Imagine a silverback gorilla.  Think about the nature of his movements, how he communicates everything he needs to sometimes with just a single look.

This primal aspect of movement is exactly how choreographer and dancer Bebe Miller prefers to think about her work.

Miller, an Ohio State professor and dance professional, visited campus to share insight into her process on Friday, Feb. 12, in the Doane dance space.  Her presentation included several taped examples of improvisational work with her dancers, demonstrating perfectly this aspect of primal communication through movement.

For inspiration, Miller visited Columbus Zoo to view the interactions of various primates.  During her visit, she found that a gorilla named Oliver could maintain his family with one look; if a group of male gorillas started beating up on a female in his group, he could stop them simply by turning and facing them.

Miller decided to incorporate this into her dancing.  Working with Darell Jones and Angie Hauser, Miller instructed them to do a partner improvisational dance routine.  There were times when the pair worked well together, and times when they did not, and Miller found that she wanted to study how this worked.  What allowed the pair to communicate with one another in order to work well, and what inhibited their communication in a way that did not work?  This was what Miller sought to learn.

Miller says she had “to feel the body…what don’t I know about it?”  This fueled her choreography, and especially helped her to provide guidelines for improvisational routines with Jones and Hauser that informed her study of the body.

By exploring the body in this way, Miller also found that the more she had Jones and Hauser work together and try to replicate routines, the more there was a sort of déjà vu moment – sometimes just the placement of their arms would bring back memories of what was on the radio on the day when they had moved their arms similarly, or what the weather was like.  Movement seems to be a basic form of communication in humans just as well as primates, informing our memories subconsciously.

The exploration of the body through movement was especially intriguing for Amanda Adornato ’18. “I thought it was very good…She really explained her purpose in identity and finding yourself through movement,” Adornato said.

Similarly, Victoria Rapillo ’18 enjoyed the presentation, stating, “It was…cool that she went to the zoo and [to] see how we originated, how she saw a gaze in the gorillas and incorporated that.”