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Watch Party: Ishmael Houston-Jones, Ralph Lemon, and Bebe Miller, Relations


Get a rare look at performance footage from the MCA's archive in a livestreamed watch party of Relations, an evening of improvised dance by influential choreographers Ishmael Houston-Jones, Ralph Lemon, and Bebe Miller. This landmark performance was organized specifically for the MCA and was one of the highlights of the 2018 season. Relive the moment alongside your fellow online viewers with live discussion prompts during the screening and a brief post-show hangout.


In Relations, three legendary shapers of experimental dance came together for the first time to perform as a trio. Part family reunion and party first-time encounter, Ishmael Houston-Jones, Ralph Lemon, and Bebe Miller paid homage to their past selves and gestured toward the future of dance in this evening of improvisation. Relive the kinship celebrated in this moment on stage after nearly 40 years of influencing each other from afar throughout their prolific careers. Stan Pressner was the lighting designer for these performances, and project management support was provided by Lila Hurwitz.

This virtual watch party is organized by Tara Aisha Willis, Associate Curator and Laura Paige Kyber, Curatorial Assistant in Performance and Public Practice.


Ishmael Houston-Jones is an improvisational and often-collaborative choreographer, curator, and teacher. In 1982 he curated Parallels at Danspace Project, asking, “What is post-Alvin Ailey Black Dance?” Thirty years later, with PLATFORM 2012: Parallels, he offered an updated reflection on the relation between dance makers of the African diaspora and postmodern choreography. After a decade-long hiatus from choreographing, during which he performed in the works of Miguel Gutierrez, Yvonne Meier, Lionel Popkin, and others, in 2010 Houston-Jones restaged THEM, a 1985 collaboration with writer Dennis Cooper and composer Chris Cochrane, which explored aggression and sexuality and had premiered during the AIDS epidemic. Houston-Jones was honored with the Doris Duke Impact Award in 2015 and received the CalArts Herb Alpert Award in the Arts in 2016.

Ralph Lemon is a choreographer, writer, visual artist, curator, and the artistic director of Cross Performance, a company dedicated to the creation of cross-cultural and cross-disciplinary performance and presentation. His most recent works include Scaffold Room(2015), Four Walls(2012), and How Can You Stay in The House All Day And Not Go Anywhere? (2008–10), a work with live performance, film, and visual art that toured throughout the US. The immersive visual art installation Meditation, which was part of How Can You Stay, was acquired for the permanent collection of the Walker Art Center in 2012. In January 2011 a reimagined section of How Can You Stay was performed at the Museum of Modern Art, New York, in conjunction with On Line: Drawing Through the Twentieth Century. Lemon curated the fall 2012 performance series Some sweet day at MoMA and the acclaimed 2010 performance seriesI Get Lost at Danspace Project in New York. His solo visual art exhibitions have been shown at the Studio Museum in Harlem; the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, San Francisco; The Kitchen, New York; and the Walker Art Center, Minneapolis. He is the recipient of three "Bessie" Awards, two Foundation for Contemporary Art Awards, two New York Foundation for the Arts Fellowships, a Guggenheim Fellowship, and a CalArts Herb Alpert Award. Lemon has held teaching positions or residencies at Harvard University, Krannert Center, Princeton University, Stanford University, Temple University, and Yale University. He is currently Professor of Practice of Theatre Arts and Performance Studies at Brown University and a Visual Arts Mentor at Columbia University School of the Arts. He was the 2014 Annenberg Fellow at MoMA, where he curated a series of “performance essays” titled Value Talks. His book Come home Charley Patton, the final installment in the series The Geography Trilogy, was published in 2013 by Wesleyan University Press. He was shortlisted for the 2016 Guggenheim Hugo Boss Prize and received a 2015 National Medal of Arts from President Barack Obama. The first monograph of his work was published by MoMA as part of their new Modern Dance series in 2016.

Bebe Miller, a native New Yorker, first performed her choreography at NYC's Dance Theater Workshop in 1978. She formed Bebe Miller Company in 1985. Known for its mix of virtuosic dancing and fundamental humanity, her choreography has been produced at major dance centers across the country and in Europe and Africa. Her work has been commissioned by Dayton Contemporary Dance Company, Oregon Ballet Theatre, Boston Ballet, PHILADANCO, Ailey II, and the Phoenix Dance Theatre in the United Kingdom, among others. She has been honored with four New York Dance and Performance “Bessies” and fellowships from the New York Foundation for the Arts, Ohio Arts Council, and Guggenheim Foundation, and was named a United States Artists Ford Fellow in 2010. A professor in Dance at Ohio State University from 2000–16, Miller was a Distinguished Professor in their College of Arts and Humanities, received an Honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters from Ursinus College in 2009 and an Honorary Doctorate in Fine Arts from Franklin & Marshall College in 2019. In 2012, she was designated as one of the inaugural class of Doris Duke Artists, a program of the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation's Performing Artist Awards. Most recently, she was honored by Movement Research as an honoree at their 2015 Gala along with Tere O'Connor and Moira Brennan. Miller currently lives in Columbus, Ohio.

Art Apart: Then and Now, Together

Performance view, Ishmael Houston-Jones, Ralph Lemon, and Bebe Miller: Relations, MCA Chicago November 2–3, 2018 Photo: Nathan Keay, © MCA Chicago

Photo: Nathan Keay, © MCA Chicago

by Tara Willis