Motion Bank’s Two Project With The Bebe Miller Company

Lily Skove* 

I am a filmmaker currently working as the video artist with the Bebe Miller Company on our piece, A History, which will premiere at the Wexner Center in Columbus, Ohio at the end of September before starting on a national tour. In June I was invited to the Frankfurt Lab in Frankfurt, Germany with the Bebe Miller Company as part of the Forsythe Company’s Motion Bank Project. Bebe Miller is an American choreographer who founded her company 25 years ago and is known for her collaborative processes with her design team, dramaturge and performers. Motion Bank, spearheaded by Scott deLahunta, is a 4 year project started in 2010 created by The Forsythe Company to research choreographic practice. Research is conducted through collaborations between guest choreographers and digital designers and programmers to create online digital scores which will be presented on the Motion Bank website for public access. The guest choreographers for 2010-2013 are Deborah Hay, Jonathan Burrows, Matteo Fargion, and Bebe Miller as part of the TWO Project. The pilot project for Motion Bank was the award winning Synchronous Objects for One Flat Thing, reproduced, a website made in collaboration between the William Forsythe Company and The Ohio State University’s Advanced Computing Center for the Arts and Design and the Department of Dance. The co-directors of this pilot project, Maria Palazzi and Norah Zuniga Shaw, are now involved with Motion Bank again through their new research, the TWO Project. As the name suggests, the TWO Project investigates the duet form through a few choreographer’s methods of creating and thinking about duets. In the words of the co-directors, “the aim of this project is to translate this thinking into innovative visual ‘objects’ to be published in the context of Motion Bank’s on-line digital dance scores.” For an example of what a visual digital score that is created from in-depth research into choreographic practice could look like, take a tour of the Synchronous Objects website, http://synchronousobjects.osu.edu/ Motion Bank is a continuation and deepening of the research questions surrounding Synchronous Objects as it looks at the choreographic knowledge housed in dance pieces and dance making as a practice. I would say that the foundation of Motion Bank’s research is the idea that dance can be experienced and understood not only through watching dance or even making dance, but through other forms, such as visual objects and digital scores that seek to translate and illuminate choreographic practice. I worked on the Synchronous Objects for One Flat Thing, reproduced website for two years as a graduate student and video editor while receiving my MFA in dance and technology from the Ohio State University. It is exciting for me to be a part of another Motion Bank project tangling with similar questions but in new ways with the Bebe Miller Company and the TWO Project.

Motion Bank’s TWO Project is researching the duet between performer/collaborator Darrell Jones and Angie Hauser in the context of A History as well as Miller’s duets in her past works and choreographic practice. A History is about the process of making, excavating past pieces to pull forward into the present an archive that is held in the body and held between collaborators through relationships that span many years. Since the piece sources specific duets from past works performed by Darrell Jones and Angie Hauser, the TWO project is interested not only in looking at A History as a piece in itself but the research and questions the company has been engaged in throughout the process of making the piece. Besides looking at the duet form, the Two Project team is interested in researching and creating visual scores that trace and illustrate how Bebe Miller collaborates with her company in her creative process. Our residency at the Frankfurt Lab was an opportunity for the Two Project team to continue to conceptualize how they will translate Miller’s choreographic practice and creative process by sitting in on our rehearsals and lab time as we developed A History. Each day we worked in the Frankfurt Lab on new choreography and ways of structuring the piece, experimenting with ways of integrating the films and live performance. Our residency culminated in a work-in-progress showing at the Frankfurt Lab, and these performances gave us great information about the piece as we continue to work towards our premiere. A History has been built during a few residency periods similar to the Frankfurt Lab residency over the past 2 years, and these intensive making periods are really what grow the work and push the piece forward. It was also rewarding for me to have this time to work with my films and experiment with ways of structuring them inside of the work as we collaboratively created new meanings and relationships between the live performance and the films. Having the Two Project team engaged in our process afforded us conversations we would not otherwise have had about our process of making during the residency. For instance, one of these conversations sparked a new way of thinking about our methods of creating the piece. During one rehearsal Maria Palazzi asked myself and dramaturge Talvin Wilks if there was a central document or score we were all tracking and adding to collectively as we created each moment of the piece together. She proposed the idea of developing a way for us to all annotate in real time shifts in our ideas and responses to what we were making so that we could all collectively work from and develop a shared map that would chart our process. From this map we would have a record of responses and ideas from each experiment. While in Frankfurt we were all introduced to Piecemaker, a software system designed to record, annotate and archive dance. Piecemaker was initiated by Forsythe company member David Kern as part of Motion Bank, and was created as a tool to be used during the process of making a piece. To learn more about Piecemaker visit http://motionbank.org/en/piecemaker-2/  With our minds on ways of tracking and annotating the process of making a dance, we discussed how a shared real-time scoring of ideas and decisions from each collaborator would expose to us the ways in which we are working as a team. We were also interested in how a shared digital score of the making process would both gather information about our process as well as create potentially new kinds of methods of making within our group and thus have an impact on what the piece itself becomes. As the Two Project launches into a year of translating choreographic thinking into digital scores, our residency at the Frankfurt Lab was a great opportunity to discuss ideas inside the process of making A History. For more information about Motion Bank, visit http://motionbank.org , or to read about A History, visit http://www.bebemillercompany.org

*LILY SKOVE is a filmmaker and choreographer, creating for the screen, installation, and live performance. Her films have been shown at Dance Theater Workshop’s Digital Series, The San Diego/Tijuana DANCEonFILM Festival, and Dance Camera Istanbul, and she has worked as a video editor on Synchronous Objects For One Flat Thing, Reproduced, a website and installation made in collaboration between The William Forsythe Company and The Ohio State University. Her choreographies have been presented at the Chocolate Factory Theater in New York City, the Dailes Theatre in Riga, Latvia as part of the Laiks Dejot International Dance Festival, and Oberlin College among other venues. Lily holds a Diploma in Dance Studies from the Laban Centre, UK, and an MFA in Dance from The Ohio State University. Currently Lily runs a production company in Los Angeles and works in camera departments on feature films. http://vimeo.com/channels/lilyskove