Special Issues » Fall Arts Guide

Local dancer examines the art of the hustle

Biba hustles harder

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The last time we spoke with Biba Bell, she was working on a project that interlaced dance and architecture — talk about high concept art. Before that, she and her dance trio had spent time performing in avant garde spaces like backyards, alleys, and even the packing shed of a farm. In short, when we talk about a dancer like Bell, we aren't talking about a run-of-the-mill performer who'll be showcased at a local theater — there's a lot more to Bell than that.

Bell, who is an adjunct professor at Wayne State, has a doctorate from New York University in performance studies. So, whenever the writer, dancer, and choreographer is creating a new project, you can expect it to incorporate elements you wouldn't typically expect in a dance show. Bell studies her subject matter first, and then creates something of a performance installation around her findings.

With her solo, architecture-inspired dance project behind her, Bell is working on something more social. And by something more social, we mean the Hustle. Yes, that Hustle. The Hustle that's played at every school dance, wedding reception, bar/bat mitzvah, and podunk nightclub in America.

Of course, we don't mean just the Hustle — although that's the way Biba describes her project — what we mean is any sort of modern line dance like the Cupid Shuffle, the Wobble, the Electric Slide, the Cha Cha Slide — you get where we're going with this.

Bell says she's particularly interested in the social elements of line dance: the way it gets everyone out on the dance floor at the same time, and that rush of unified excitement we feel while we're all stepping together in unison.

"It becomes almost a living thing," says Bell. "You have that shared experience of joy when you're all doing it together. When you go out to a club, that's what you're after."

Bell wants to explore what happens to a singluar dancer when they disappear into that group experience. She's hoping to do some research during a group event she's putting together later this season.

"I'm really interested in that group experience," she says. "It's a feeling where you can forget what you're doing, but the group is there to support you."

The group event is tenatively planned for sometime this fall, before the weather gets cold, but nothing is set in stone quite yet. Bell says there will also be a theater element, and she already has dates booked for a New York premier next June. Of course, the Motor City can expect to get an eyeful of Bell's hustle too.

For now, we just have to wait and see what this dancer lines up. And it probably wouldn't hurt to go out and do the Hustle.

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