By Beth Elliott
I started the Beth Elliott Dance Group (BEDG) in 1997 when my husband was stationed at the U.S. Naval Test Pilot School in Patuxent River, Maryland. Since then, my family and I, along with my dance company, have lived in Southern California, did a second tour of duty in Pax River, migrated to Honolulu, Hawai‘i, and finally, after my husband’s retirement from the military, arrived in Northern Virginia, which we now call home.
Although the places and people that have been part of BEDG have changed over the years, its foundation is the repertoire. Paper Dolls was choreographed at the University of Hawai‘i at Manoa in 2006, and was restaged for my Master’s Thesis in 2007. It began as an experiment; I enlisted dancers to improvise, and set up my camera. Almost all of the movement material in Paper Dolls happened during unstructured improvisation sessions, was caught on tape, and composed into the sequences that now make up the dance. The dance eventually ‘told’ me it was to be called Paper Dolls. The music came last. I found it rather by chance after the piece was nearly complete.
Giving up my normal conventions was a creative turning point in my work. I look back on the memories of the time, place, and people that were part of the process of creating Paper Dolls with a great deal of fondness and longing. Restaging it on new dancers was like introducing an old, trusted friend to new ones. Watching the new cast weave their energy and memories into the fabric of the dance as they became intimately part of its movement and meaning was and continues to be an experience I feel truly privileged to enjoy. I am proud to be presenting Paper Dolls, an established piece from my ever-expanding body of work, at Dance Project this coming Saturday.
Beth Elliott teaches dance and yoga at Northern Virginia Community College, and teaches and choreographs for Groundworks Dance Ensemble and the Beth Elliott Dance Group, both in residence at the Artory in Herndon, Virginia. Joy of Motion Dance Center’s annual Dance Project takes place Saturday, December 1st, 8:30 p.m. at The Jack Guidone Theater. Tickets start at $12.