Author Archives: bitabell

About bitabell

Artist: Dancer, Choreographer, Filmmaker, Composer




Photos by Calista Lyon and Video by Andrew Ina


Created by Katie Coughlin:

“A sifter keeps the flour light, even as it accidentally sprinkles the surface of a countertop. It always leaves behind a dusting of its own existence. As a teenager, there were constantly clothes to take off the line. We had, at one point, 3 clotheslines reaching out from the windows to the telephone pole tucked away in the left corner of our backyard. The reaching of arms out the window as our legs anchored us inside was a brutal test of our ability to balance and stretch. Our body became a part of this apparatus-as it often does when we complete physical tasks; our joints propel us forward while shoulders and hips and heads bear weight and get worked. When our bodies become mechanisms, where does the boundary lie? Is the edge of our body the tip of our finger or is it the ends of the bristles of the broom as we sweep the floor? The elements in my work originated from specific remembrances – often involving a task being completed while the rest of a household moved around it. These objects reference specific fragments of familiar gestures. Harnessing traces of these memories, I seek to challenge notions of recognized movement and undertakings. The transformation from a remembered visual to a physical instrument enlarges an aspect of self, marking an extension of identity.”

Garden of Constants

This project was initiated by Kathryn Holt through the Council of Graduate Students/Arts and Culture department. CGS has been encouraging departments of performing arts to produce pop-up performances around the OSU campus.

Because of my interest in site-specific works at places where interesting architecture intersect with human activities, I chose the Garden of Constants sculptures as the location.

The artist, Barbra Grygutis,  created outdoor structures  in “public spaces that enhance the built environment, enable civic interaction, and reveal unspoken relationships between nature and humanity.” Furthermore, her purpose was to identify “themes meaningful to each specific sites and community.” Dance fits perfectly within the language that Barbra has used to describe her art in public spaces: dance humans moving through designed spaces, interacting with their environment and each other.

To make this process more personal and meaningful for the dancers involved, I asked them to write down all the numbers that resemble a special event. For example; their parent’s birthday, their anniversary date, the date they adopted a dog, they date they moved to a new place, etc. We then read our numbers out loud and similar to bingo, circled the ones that are close to the read number. So we ended up with a list of our personal numbers and the stories behind them as well as a list of shared numbers.

I find it very interesting when text is incorporated in abstract and structured improvisation. During rehearsal, I noticed how adding voice effects our engagement with movements. It was certainly an anchoring point of this performance.

The Improvisation Structure heavily relied on the music – and in this case, our live musician Yuji Jones. The sections shift as the music begins or ends. But the beginnings and endings of each section is smoothed out: ever so slightly stretching the time in which change happens.

Overall, I very much enjoyed the making process and performing inside it. I was lucky to be surrounded by talented improvisers. It certainly is an invaluable skill to be able to jump into a structure improvisation with an articulate body.





Tanhaayi (Loneliness)

Tanhaayi (Loneliness) 2017
Dancer and Editor: Bita Bell
Painter: Oldooz Robatian

On a cloudy December day, I met painter and makeup artist Oldooz Robatian at her apartment in Tehran. She and I spent a full day together talking about our personal lives as female Iranian artists and discussing Iranian politics. Our ideas connected and we decided to collaborate on a project together, on that very day.

At the time, Oldooz was working on a large scale painting project ‘Loneliness’. For both of us, loneliness meant more than just being alone. It resonated with how isolated we feel practicing our full identities as women and artists in Iran: Oldooz not being able to exhibit her political paintings and showcase her fashion designs, and me not being able to dance publically.

Through dance improvisation, I embodied our personal narratives and our discussion of Iranian politics together with the visual sensations from Oldooz’s paintings. I took some layers off and exposed my skin to express the vulnerable feelings we were both experiencing.

We tried to extend our collaboration after, but due to the distance it became very difficult. This short film became a documentation of reconstructing the movements, feelings, mood, and ideas that evolved on that day.


Our project shifted from a performative solo creation to visualization of a research process.

Documentation of dance improvisation, and even more the recreation of it, is extremely difficult. Dance is ephemeral and improvisation is often times forgotten. I wanted to keep the sensations alive in the visualization of the recreation of my improvisation.

My solo in the video was filmed within a small place, similar in the dimension of Oldooz’s apartment in Tehran –where we collaborated. When I was dancing, the painting was not physically present in any form, but rather I was relying on my memory of it. In the editing process, I layered the painting in real life proportions and adjusted the foreground and background in a way that it seemed as though I am in front of the painting. However, at times I merge into the painting, as if we are one. This visualization speaks to my experience investigating my improvisation without the painting present and the sensations of my memory staying active.

Transient Passage through Varied Ambiances

disclaimer: all text is from the writing of my fellow MFA peer Katherine Moore. Follow and read more here: 

“Our goal” for this process “has been to research the affective relationship between the body and its environment through sensory-based improvisation and collaborative dance making processes.”

“The result of a semester-long process involving outdoor improvisations and collaborative making strategies,  this work-in-progress explored sensation, memory, and embodied modes of trace-making in relationship to place.”

“Simply by taking an improvisatory process out of the studio and into an outdoor setting, what sensations, emotions, and perceptions could be heightened in the body? How can we intuitively respond to the elements of space in the same way that dancers often intuitively respond to each other in improvisation? Is it possible to truly embody our perceptions of space?  And then, how do we capture those sensations as generative material for choreography?”

“As in any creative process, things shifted over time. Certain aspects came into focus while others faded away, much in the same way that vision functions in large spaces: As details enter the foreground, certain elements become background, and then vice versa. Over time, a few central themes began to emerge:

  • Relief (as in relief sculpture)
  • Foreground/background
  • The attention of leaving (when to depart, how to move on)
  • Circularity of space
  • The physicality of dancing with no ceiling
  • The group dynamic against the individual desires
  • Memory as a physical sensation”

“Because my work is a bit abstract, I tried with this process to find some anchor points for my audience, mostly through the sound design and through the involvement of our written and drawn reflection in the final work. Working with my sound designer, Bita Bell, I wanted a sound score that reflected some of our outdoor experiences through found sound, while also providing some energetic support and momentum.”


“I love the way in which the tracks convey a sense of time. The returning theme of almost clock-like beeps and clicks against the more expansive melodic line brings some aspect of what we experienced outdoors into the studio. It references an oscillation between detail and more general impressions, between individual moments and duration. This is much like the experience of an improvisation, and also of taking in a landscape. Again, certain elements come into focus, while others fill a backdrop.”

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