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St. Louis area artists Maya Angelou, Miles Davis inspire Dance St. Louis’ New Dance Horizons IV

Famed choreographers Dianne McIntyre and Bebe Miller discussed their parts in Dance St. Louis' production of New Dance Horizons IV.
Kelly Moffitt | St. Louis Public Radio
Famed choreographers Dianne McIntyre and Bebe Miller discussed their parts in Dance St. Louis' production of New Dance Horizons IV.

Dance St. Louis’ fourth installment of “New Dance Horizons” celebrates Black History Month. It will highlight the works of three nationally-renowned African-American choreographers inspired by those who came before them.

Miles Davis and Maya Angelou were two such artists with St. Louis ties that inspired choreographers Bebe Miller and Dianne McIntyre, respectively, as they created pieces that will be performed by St. Louis dancers this weekend.

Both Miller and McIntyre joined “St. Louis on the Air” to discuss their pieces and how they conceptualized them. Also joining them was dancer Antonio Douthit-Boyd, who will perform as part of McIntyre’s piece, along with a dance ensemble created in September 2015 specifically for New Dance Horizons. Douthit-Boyd is a former dancer with the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theatre company and current co-artistic director of dance with the Center of Creative Arts.

The process of choreographing starts long before a choreographer sets eyes on the dancers.

"It's not just what you see us doing in the studio,” said McIntyre of the choreography process. “We have hours and weeks and months of sitting with the idea."

Dianne McIntyre said she often would sit at the kitchen table with a cup of tea and simply “live with the sound.”

Related: Cut & Paste podcast: Touhill art show dances with social-justice themes

Douthit-Boyd called McIntyre a “legend in her own right,” and described the process of carrying her choreography to life, in this case a dance inspired by a Maya Angelou poem.

“Working with Dianne, she comes to the studio and she has a picture of what she wants the steps to look like and how she wants it to be perceived,” Douthit-Boyd said. “And then Kirven, my husband, and Alicia Graf Mack will start to do something and she’ll go ‘that’s not what I was thinking, but it was better.’ So you have a little bit of wiggle room to interpret what she gives you and make it your own. That’s what she’s looking for. That’s what makes the project so special is because she’ll give you movement and we have a chance to interpret it how we felt.”

This process of collaboration allows dancers to go on stage feeling comfortable, because they know they helped create the piece being performed.

“A lot of people have asked me ‘when am I going to see you dance again?’ Not that I’m retired from dancing all together, I’m just focused more on my kids at COCA and that I’m helping them to create their careers. To be able to do this in St. Louis and to know that Maya Angelou, and all these people involved in this, it is just magical to think I have a little bit to do with how this was created.”

In the video clip below, local dancers perform a part of Dianne McIntyre's choreography.

Noon: Discussing @DANCE_STL's #NDH4 with @AntonioDouthit, @bebemillco, & Diane McIntyre. https://t.co/5awMUVPeWN pic.twitter.com/HWPrUCVBwk — St. Louis on the Air (@STLonAir) February 25, 2016

“Imagine there’s a moment in front of you that you have never seen and you are asking somebody to step into that and fill it with themselves,” Miller said.  “They know more about who they are as artists than I do. Setting up a kind of conversation where that can come through is my job. That’s what I love about it. It is not so much about setting up ‘here are these steps that I’ve made,’ but more of ‘here’s something for you to live inside of.’” 

Related Event

What: Dance St. Louis Presents New Dance Horizons IV: A Celebration Inspired by St. Louis’ Legendary Black Artists
When: Friday, Feb. 26 at 8:00 p.m. and Saturday, Feb. 27 at 2:00 and 8:00 p.m.
Where: Touhill Performing Arts Center at the University of Missouri-St. Louis
More information.  

St. Louis on the Air brings you the stories of St. Louis and the people who live, work and create in our region. St. Louis on the Air host Don Marsh and producers Mary Edwards, Alex Heuer and Kelly Moffitt give you the information you need to make informed decisions and stay in touch with our diverse and vibrant St. Louis region. 

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Kelly Moffitt joined St. Louis Public Radio in 2015 as an online producer for St. Louis Public Radio's talk shows St. Louis on the Air.