East meets West, and spoken word yields to sound and movement, in a new dance performance. | Theater | Pittsburgh | Pittsburgh City Paper

East meets West, and spoken word yields to sound and movement, in a new dance performance.

What if instead of carrying on a verbal conversation, you used dance to tell someone how your day went, or how you were feeling?

The idea that dance could be a more prominent part of everyday life might sound far-fetched to some. But not to Mary Miller. The seasoned, Pittsburgh-based modern-dance performer and choreographer believes dance should be an integral part of daily living, rather than a spectacle that provides brief diversion from it.

It is a viewpoint shared by Bharatanatyam dancer Namita Bodaji, of Mumbai, India. On June 1 and 2, the two join their like minds and very different movement styles in DanceFusion/Bodaji & Miller, a sort of Eastern-dance-meets-Western-dance conversation about communication, presented by the Mary Miller Dance Company at SPACE gallery.

Seven years after they met at an artist exchange program, Miller and Bodaji's schedules finally aligned. Bodaji is an acclaimed dancer in the very structured and rigid technique of Bharatanatyam, an ancient dance form from south India. She says she was captivated by Miller's movement sense, and relished the idea of collaborating.

"It is a wonderful idea. Although we move differently in trying to talk about the same thing, it brings out the commonness that binds us all as dancers and human beings," says Bodaji.

The pair will be joined in the free hour-long program by Miller Company dancer Jamie Campbell and percussionist David Bergman, with each member contributing his or her ideas and viewpoint. Miller provided the choreographic blueprint; Campbell and Bodaji helped build the show; and Bergman composed an original score he will play live at each of the three performances on an arsenal of drums, cymbals, bells and other instruments.

"The work in one sense is a communication between two very different ethnic groups and dance styles," says Miller. In another sense, she says, the performance is a communication between dancer and musician. The work will contain some simple phrases, spoken by the dancers, that Bergman will then translate into sounds or musical phrases distinctive to each dancer. As the work progresses, says Miller, the sounds will take the place of the dancer's spoken words.

The Mary Miller Dance Company, one of the city's oldest modern-dance companies, has seen ups and downs in its 22-year history. In recent years, due to financial concerns, it had adopted a lower profile. With DanceFusion, and with other projects in the works, Miller is again optimistic that the company will itself become a more visible part of everyday life, at least in Pittsburgh.

DanceFusion/Bodaji & Miller 6 p.m. Fri., June 1, and 2 p.m. and 6 p.m. Sat., June 2. SPACE gallery, 812 Liberty Ave., Downtown. Free. 412-434-1169 or www.marymillerdanceco.org

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