Monday, April 14, 2014

How It Happened: a conversation with Biba Bell about her apartment dance

Photo by Norman McDonald
(originally published 4/14/15 in Infinite Mile)

For six evenings in late February and early March 2015, dancer & choreographer Biba Bell performed It Never Really Happened (Part One) in her fifth floor, corner apartment in the Pavilion, a 1958 Mies van der Rohe high rise in Detroit's Lafayette Park.

Bell describes It Never Really Happened as a "triptych," a dance in three parts taking place in the same apartment in the winter, summer and fall of this year. Part One was a solo, Part Two will be a duet, Part Three an ensemble piece.

Part One featured a soundtrack curated by DJ Scott Zacharias as well as a performance by photographer and musician Nicola Kuperus, who played "the hostess."

Bell was born in 1976 in Sebastopol, California and earned a Ph.D. in performance studies from N.Y.U. this year. She first became interested in creating an intimate, site-specific performance that would explore the intersection of dance, domesticity and modern architecture when she encountered Buckminster Fuller's Dymaxion House at the Henry Ford Museum. But it is in Lafayette Park, the mid-century superblock just east of downtown Detroit, that the dance continues to take shape.

I have known Biba for about five years and have admired and written about some of her previous work in Detroit. After attending two performances of It Never Really Happened (Part One), I decided to interview her to learn more about the performance's development, execution, and many shades of meaning.

On the evening of March 23rd, I walked from my apartment in Lafayette Towers across Lafayette Plaisance to the Pavilion, where I joined her for a homemade dinner, a bottle of wine and two hours of conversation. What follows is an edited and illustrated transcript of our talk, divided into ten sections and preceded by a sketch of the performance for readers who did not have the chance to attend it.