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Performance photos of the Bebe Miller Company and the Dayton Contemporary Dance Company

Two Ohio Dance Companies Selected for DanceMotion USA International Tours

Dancers Trebien Pollard, Branwen MacArthur, Christal Brown, Michelle Boule, Angie Houser, and Sarah Gamblin. The seventh season of DanceMotion USA will bring a bit of the Buckeye State to an international audience.

The Dayton Contemporary Dance Company (DCDC) and the Columbus-based Bebe Miller Company were among three companies chosen to participate in a cultural diplomacy program presented by the U.S. Department of State and administered by the Brooklyn Academy of Music (BAM).

For a little more than three weeks in May, DCDC will travel to Russia and Kazakhstan, while the Bebe Miller Company will travel to Colombia and Peru in June. The third company chosen, the Ririe-Woodbury Dance Company from Salt Lake City, Utah, will travel to South Korea and Mongolia.

While abroad, the companies will promote international exchange through professional development and performance residencies.

The goal of the program is to “connect people—particularly youth and marginalized communities—through cultural exchanges worldwide,” according to a media release published by DanceMotion USA. Michelle VanHuss, director of touring and university initiatives at DCDC, said this mission is important to the eight dancers and three staff members who will be representing the company.

“We do not take our role of cultural ambassadors lightly in this endeavor,” she said. “We have the best of both worlds on this tour. We get to show what we do, but it really is an exchange opportunity with the groups that we are working with.”

During their time in Russia, the dancers will have the opportunity to perform at the famous Bolshoi Theatre in Moscow in addition to hosting workshops with teachers and choreographers. In Kazakhstan, representatives from DCDC will perform at an orphanage, teach courses at a college, and work with local dancers to develop a piece that combines aspects of contemporary and traditional dance.

“We will be collaborating with one of the cultural dance troupes. We will set a work on the ground between the two companies and it will be performed the next day,” VanHuss said. “That will be a great opportunity to exchange the two different dance forms.”

In Colombia and Peru, the Bebe Miller Company will lead workshops where dancers will share their creative process in an effort to uncover and strengthen a common bond between communities and cultures.

“I really see this as a chance for equal exchange,” said Bebe Miller, the company’s artistic director. “What we take away is the experience of a mutual translation. We are putting a lot of trust into just what a human exchange can be.”

Miller, who originally hails from New York and now lives in Columbus, said the seven dancers and three staff members who will be traveling to South America bring a diverse background to the program.Christal Brown and Trebien Pollard.

“We really are a virtual company. We all have had a common experience mostly in New York City, but now most of us are living in lots of other places,” she said. “These are seasoned performers. They are bringing a range of expertise, and I feel like that is the real benefit of this exchange.”

Neither company is a stranger to international attention.

Now in its 33rd year, the Bebe Miller Company has pioneered the use of new technologies to connect artists to an ever-growing digital community under Miller’s leadership. An award-winning choreographer whose work is known worldwide, Miller is the recipient of several Ohio Arts Council (OAC) Individual Excellence awards and grants. Her work has been produced at dance centers across the country, in Europe, and on the African continent.



DCDC, under the artistic direction of Debbie Blunden-Diggs, was founded almost 50 years ago by Jeraldyne Blunden. It is the oldest modern dance company in Ohio and one of few American dance companies of international reputation located outside a major U.S. metropolitan area. A longtime OAC grant recipient, DCDC was recently announced as the winner of the 2018 Irma Lazarus Award, an annual honor given to individuals or organizations who have helped shape public support for the arts and have brought national and international recognition to Ohio through sustained dedication to artistic excellence. 



 

Miller said she is inspired to see that the DanceMotion USA program recognizes the power of art and dance as a unifying force.

“I feel very pleased that our State Department is taking this interest in another way of connecting with a global community,” she said. “It seems to me that there has been quite a bit of success and good feeling on both sides in previous iterations of this tour.”

VanHuss added that she thinks the selection of two Ohio-based companies is indicative of how dance is thriving throughout the state.

“It was very interesting because we knew that we were invited to participate (in the DanceMotion USA tour), but we had no idea who else was until they announced it,” she said. “It was very exciting to see Bebe Miller selected out of Columbus. That just goes to show … people might not realize what Ohio has, but Ohio has got it together. Dance in Ohio is booming.”

For more information about DanceMotion USA, visit dancemotionusa.org. Learn more about the Bebe Miller Company and DCDC at bebemillercompany.org and dcdc.org.


ABOUT DANCEMOTION USA
DanceMotion USASM is a program of the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs of the U.S. Department of State, produced by Brooklyn Academy of Music (BAM) to showcase contemporary American dance abroad.

ABOUT THE OHIO ARTS COUNCIL
The Ohio Arts Council is a state agency that funds and supports quality arts experiences to strengthen Ohio communities culturally, educationally, and economically. Connect with the OAC on Facebook, follow us on Twitter, or visit our website at oac.ohio.gov.

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Article by Amanda Etchison, Communications Strategist



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