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    Salvage in K.J. Holmes and Bebe Miller

    Progress is Produce, or, Long Live the Lifers!

    K.J. Holmes and Bebe Miller's shared evening of works-in-progress at Danspace Project is a tribute to the lifelong practice of investigative dancing.


    K.J. Holmes and Bebe Miller shared an evening recently at Danspace Project to present two works in progress, "Salvage" and "Landing/Place." The assembled cast between the two works was a group of young dance greats; the evening was a paean to the life of the investigative dancer, unified by a sense of quiet inquiry.

    Choreography by: K.J. Holmes and Bebe Miller.
    Includes individual dances: "Landing/Place" by Bebe Miller; "Salvage" by K.J. Holmes
    Dancers: Kathleen Fisher, Angie Hauser, Kathleen Hermesdorf, Darrel Jones, David Thompson (Landing/Place); Lisa Gonzales, K.J. Holmes, Kayvon Pourazar (Salvage).
    Music by: Albert Mathias (Landing/Place); Gracia de Triana, Dave Douglas, Miles David, John Zorn, Andres Gonzales-Diaz (Salvage).
    Danspace Project
    St. Mark's Church, 131 E. 10th St.
    Jan. 22-25, 2004

    Miller's "Landing/Place" opened the evening. It contained a set of definite objects (a birdhouse, a box of lemons, a knife and cutting board), a set of images (video projected on the back wall and on a scrim delineating the front of the space — stars, constellations, flocking birds, street scenes), and a set of individuals (Kathleen Fisher, Angie Hauser, Kathleen Hermesdorf, Darrell Jones and David Thompson). The space created had the attributes of a place without losing the sense of the abstract plane of movement ideas, maintaining an openness that was tinted with both wonder and silence.

    Watching with a knowledge that the work is in progress affords a particular pleasure- setting on the perimeter a dim imagination of what else might occur, what else is there, seeing the material not only for what it is, but what might grow from it, which has always seemed to me to be Miller's unique eye within the choreographic process.

    Landing/Place in K.J. Holmes and Bebe Miller

    There was a sense throughout of trying to find a site, a landing place from which to watch the world. When the dancers line up occasionally at the scrim, sometimes looking from the audience side into the dancing space, sometimes peering out at the audience, they seem as is if they're on the porch, observing from a place of comfort, effaced in their belonging to the spot, at least for the moment.

    There's also a sense of searching for rest. Sometimes this rest is literally lying on the floor, but also they find rest in repeated patterns, particularly a rocking foursome, nestled into each other like standing spoons, rocking from front foot to back as they navigate the space, often observing the kooky Fisher, wildcard of the group.

    In all, the idea of place isn't so much a mapping, but the sensation of being in a place. Sensation is underscored in a party scene. Hauser passes out lemons to suck on, and the result is a lot of tush shaking. The acidic lemons add a lift to things, keeping the sensation airy.

    Later, when constellation and flocking images returned to the scrim, I was reminded to view the bodies here- both the individual bodies and the body of the group- as a mobile set of points resting in passing configurations. Not totally transitory, it seemed that these configurations were patterns to return to like little homes.

    K.J. Holmes' "Salvage" had a similar sense of air, but a more isolated sense of searching. Process again played a part, prompting an effort to uncover the impetus for the improvisations (a welcoming mystery). Danced by Holmes, Lisa Gonzales and Kayvon Pourazar, the work had three distinct figures, each with different timbres. I had a sense of solo instruments, or of three distinct elements in an empty environment. The elements themselves are not empty however, but rich and full: isolated pieces of something arrayed in an open, dreamy landscape. Returning to scenes of the dance in my memory, they suggest storybook illustrations. Holmes standing on a balcony, singing, in an Indian dress. Gonzales, whose each finger has its own voice, methodically spreading out a neat column of leaves, initially laid in a clean diagonal by Pourazar.

      Hauser passes out lemons to suck on, and the result is a lot of tush shaking.
    Holmes, besides being a movement improvisor/teacher and singer, is a poet. "Salvage" has a poem's economy of images, and created that same economy in me as a watcher. I was able to see the elements not as paragraphs but as a few well chosen words, and take pleasure in their sequence, specificity and proximity.

    For a long time, each voice is separate. Later in the piece when the three merge — first Pourazar and Holmes in a duet, and then adding Gonzales to make a trio, they simultaneously have a sense of confluence and separation, as if we are looking at three transparencies laid on top of each other. Within their individual planes, they still seem to be dancing in a solo mind.

    For all its sense of longing, there is also a sense of play, especially in Holmes herself. Propelled by the sound of the trumpet (for which she has "more than a passing affinity"), there is something astonishingly light, fibrous, and springy about the way she moves. With her, there is always the possibility of upward action, of bleeps and whoops. I kept thinking of light wood, something both dry and moist, like a silver birch tree. The whole feel of "Salvage" prompts me to look at it from an alchemical, elemental vocabulary, analyzing balances of the volatile and the fixed.

    As a whole, this shared evening was a tribute to the process and practice of dancing, and the settling into a life of it.

    FEBRUARY 3, 2004

    Reader comments on K.J. Holmes and Bebe Miller:

  • [no subject]   from brittney glover, Feb 26, 2005

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