Elle Johansen: Our Behaviors
I love the moment a new guest artist walks through the door. There is an air of excitement, an unknowing force that fills the room with anticipation and this was especially true for our latest guest, Bebe Miller. Not only have we had the privilege of working with Bebe Miller the past week and a half but Bebe also brought two dancers from her company, Angie Hauser and Bronwen MacArthur. These two women have helped us dive into Bebe’s interest of “the space between people… and how telling, how specific, and how dynamic it can be.”
Through the process, both Bebe and Angie have guided us through improvisational exercises. In solos, duets, trios, and larger group work. Bebe’s process has challenged me to reflect on why I choose the things I do while improvising.
On day 3, we were enlightened that maybe “choices” wasn’t the right word and changed it to “behaviors.” The word “behavior” has become my mantra for this piece. I find myself asking, why do I behave this way? Why does this person influence my behavior? Bronwen has encouraged us to make choices, often telling me to just show her something, or giving suggestions on things she might like.
Bronwen and Angie also gave me an interesting insight into Bebe’s work during rehearsals. Bebe normally takes 6 months to a year to complete a piece. I realized that I am not the only one being pushed to think differently, but perhaps Bebe is also being pushed a little out of her own comfort zone. I would never know if she was, however. She is always calm, collected, and at times silly.
The next step of Bebe’s process has been her stepping back and looking at all our “behaviors” and putting them together. This is the part I love most about watching her work. Bebe is so alive in the moment and isn’t afraid to make a quick change in the middle of something set. It’s keeping the piece alive and exciting for all of us. She also has a wit that I wish I could bottle for myself. We dancers are always looking for solutions or what comes next in our own work. With Bebe’s influence and watching her make decisions and solutions, I personally feel that her ideas are always better than what I could have imagined.
We are currently still in the creation process so I cannot say much about what it will be like to rehearse this piece, or how she will coach us on performance once it is completed. However I am confident the finished project will be one our audiences will thoroughly enjoy.
Elle Johansen is originally from Salt Lake City, Utah and began her dance training at the age of 9 with the Janet Gray School in Salt Lake City, Utah. She earned her BFA in Modern Dance from the University of Utah in 2015 where she received both the “Outstanding Senior Award” and the “Student Service Award.” Elle has been a guest dancer with RDT since 2015 and officially joined the company in 2017.