Bita Bell is a first year at Earlham College. Art and dance have remained staples in her life, she currently has a performance this coming Saturday, November 23rd with choreographer, Courtney Ramm. Tickets can be found here.
CA: So Bita, tell me a little bit about your background and upbringings and how you came to participating in the program?
BB: I left my hometown Tehran, Iran on a full scholarship to study at LPC United World College of Hong Kong. While in Hong Kong I focused on Theatre and Arts. I would say that was the birth of my artistic self–I became expressive through photography, film, theater performance, dance and mixed media. I graduated in 2012, winning the student’s arts award. My artistic experiences at UWC of HK made me decide on my career path. I am student at Earlham College in Indiana now. And though I had plans on majoring in Dance, Earlham does not offer a Dance program unfortunately. So, I am in the process of transferring. I thought participating in the New York Arts Program would make me flourish as an artist again–little did I know, it would change my life!
CA: That’s very inspiring; you’re a very driven girl–where are you interning?
BB: I was supposed to intern at Dance New Amsterdam first, but they got shut down due to bankruptcy. So, one day I went to take a ballet workshop at Joffrey Ballet School, but it was very expensive. So, I emailed them and asked if I can work in exchange for their training. I received a lovely message from Jo Matos
the director of the school saying that they would love to have me as an intern! Besides Joffrey Ballet, I intern for a freelance Dance choreographer named Sally Silvers, ACB Dance Company with the artistic director Alison Cook Beatty, and Gallim Dance Company in Brooklyn.
CA: That seems like you definitely are engulfing yourself in dance—what are kinds of tasks they have you do?
BB: At Joffrey Ballet School I am a teaching assistant for the Children’s Program. I sometimes work in the administrative section, but more recently I have been helping out with the production of The Nutcracker. For Sally Silvers, because she’s been creating work for a long time, she has a lot of archiving that needs to be done. Right now, I am making a website for her and grant researching for her. She recently had a performance in DC called Bonobo Milkshake and I helped find a rehearsal space for her. It’s great. Before I came here, I knew I wanted to experience all sides of dance and working for a company and choreographer has given me that opportunity.
CA: What are you expecting to get out of your time here?
BB: The only expectation I had before coming here was to do as much as I can and live every moment to the fullest. I think this is why I have accomplished too many things that I didn’t even think I could in my time here.
CA: I remember in early September you were featured on the HONY website–how did you happen to run into HONY?
BB: Funny story! I was all “high-fashion” with Ameila Stanley at the Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week. We decided to explore this chaotic place. Suddenly, I see Brandon Stanton behind me–so I tap his shoulder and tell him that I am a huge fan of his work specially Humans of Iran since I am an Iranian. He says: here, let’s go take a photo. We had a pretty long conversation and I was featured on the site.
CA: I the website he quotes that you choreographed a dance about your life–could you tell me a little bit about that?
BB: I grew up with the passion of becoming a dancer. Back home, there are not many resources to pursue dancing– especially for women. I used to spend some time watching videos and copying their moves, specifically from So You Think You Can Dance–of course, with no technique at all! When I got to Hong Kong, I had many resources and as I mentioned before I was already flourishing as an artist. I thought this is my best chance to create a dance piece. Because I had experienced a lot of ups and downs in my life in Iran and had a lot to share and tell, so I chose to do that. I devised, directed, choreographed and designed Skin And Bones. It was based on my feelings and experiences back home from 2009 followed by a separation from my mother up until March 2013. The process was hard and I had to trust my dancers a lot to open up to them. I have to admit that if it weren’t for the commitment that my dancers made, Skin And Bones would have never become possible.
The reaction I got from the audience at the night of the performance was unbelievable. Almost the entire house was moved and in tears. Skin And Bones was performed again later and got a review on Jewish Times Asia as well as some of my friend’s blogs. I became so much more confident in wanting to pursue dance, I knew that I had created a great piece of work without having any training in dance.
CA: I’ll definitely be sure to share the dance with everyone here. I also heard you made a couple of short films too?
BB: I am collaborating with Kathleen for an independent film project. It’s going to be filmed at Chelsea Highline—and it’s going to be about getting ‘stuck’ in the present and overcoming those obstacles we all have in life. Kathleen and I actually collaborated the first week and it was featured in the San Francisco Dance Film Festival.
CA: You seem like you are definitely making the most of your time here in the city—thank you again for taking time out of your busy schedule to interview with me.