Every choreographer and dancer knows that a new work in a company’s repertoire needs time to mature and for the dancers to grow into their roles. It is this reason why I enjoy watching a work more than once and have often agreed to review a work a second or third time. This is especially true for an evening-length dance theater work such as Let Us Bleed, Then Heal by choreographer and Artistic Director of Los Angeles-based dance company Imprints, Hannah Millar. Let Us Bleed, Then Heal premiered in July of 2022 as part of Dance at the Odyssey Festival, and Millar is bringing her company back to Los Angeles and presenting this powerful work at Stomping Ground L.A. on March 18 and 19, 2023. Tickets are on sale now.
Let Us Bleed, Then Heal is a very personal work for Millar who grew up In Coarsegold, California, attended Brigham Young University (BYU) in Utah, and received her dance training in Fresno. Her focus has always been on choreography more so than performing, and in 2020 a duet of Millar’s was chosen to appear on the annual International Women’s Day concert produced by the LA based MashUp Contemporary Dance Company. That duet was the seed that grew into Millar’s longer work Let Us Bleed, Then Heal.
While attending BYU, Millar realized that she is gay and like most of the LGBTQ+ community, coming out to one’s family is difficult at best. This is often made more complicated if one grows up in a family with strong religious views. Millar’s relationship with her mother was good, but for it to continue working, Millar felt that there were certain conditions that she had to meet. Let Us Bleed, Then Heal was inspired by the hard personal work that Millar has done following the death of her mother in 2014 to forgive her mother and herself, and to heal their relationship.
Most recently, Imprints performed Let Us Bleed, Then Heal at the Paul Shaghoian Theater in Fresno and for the first time, Millar was able to sit and watch her dance performed on the stage without having to take notes or give feedback. It was an intense and emotional experience for her and I was curious how the work has grown since its run at The Odyssey Theatre, if after seeing it performed it led her to change or alter the work.
Millar said that since the performance in Fresno, she has made a few changes to the storyline to make it clearer that she felt the presence of her mother through her hard relationship with a partner. She said that the choreographic or physical changes are small, but also thinks that for the clarity of the storyline, they are necessary alterations.
“It’s not that I’m unhappy with it” Millar added, “but every time I see it, I can see where it could be clearer. Or they (the performers) can be clearer in their dancing. So yes, the choreography and storyline is important and will always slightly change to make more sense. When I watched it in July those three nights, I knew at that moment that this was not the end of it, it had just been born, and I wanted to continue shifting it.”
Millar expressed how up to that point, she and the company had been working hard to give Let Us Bleed, Then Heal life and now she wanted to share the work in any form possible to keep it alive and growing. By that she meant presenting the entire work or excerpts of that like they did recently in Los Angeles.
“Emotionally, when I watch the show, it pulls at me in different ways every time” she said, “I feel like I have gotten to such a great point with my mom since her death. I feel like I can see her and feel her through a soul level rather than a human level… I can forget how bad our relationship was before she died. It was interesting to see and hear people’s response to the show and to realize how much people could relate to my story, that it almost brought back this human feeling for me. So being able to witness that and see how my story was reflecting in other people, reminded me how hard this journey has been.”
Though her healing process has been difficult, this work tells a very important story, and has opened up a place inside of her that convinces Millar that she must continue moving forward with this work. “Even though I feel the pain isn’t the forefront of my life anymore” she continued, “I know that it has imprinted on me, and that the biggest part of my journey in my life so far is my relationship with my mom. I want to continue to use what I’ve been through to help others feel like life is not just happening to them, but that they can have a little bit of control over their happiness and peace.”
Millar also wanted the readers to know that there will be an American Sign Language (ASL) interpreter at each performance for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing community. Her company members have also learned ASL and it has been incorporated as an important part of the work.
Millar created Let Us Bleed, Then Heal with the Odyssey Theatre space in mind. If you have not been there, it is a small theater with little or no wing space and the stage is level with the front row of the 99 seat house. The Paul Shaghoian Theater in Fresno seats 700, but Millar heard from audience members that the dancers projected extremely well and that the piece worked just as well as it did in a smaller venue. Stomping Ground L.A. seats approximately 80 people, but the stage space is larger and the lighting equipment more state-of-the-art than at the Odyssey Theatre.
Knowing that it is difficult to get someone who has not seen this work before to come to th performance, she finds that her attempts to describe the work nearly impossible. “It is like if you were to see a beautiful view, and had to only describe it in words to someone, you would never be able to describe what you are actually seeing, you can’t fully understand what it offers until you experience it yourself” she said.
For those who would like to read my review of Let Us Bleed, Then Heal at Dance at the Odyssey, please click HERE. One can also read my earlier interview with Millar that provides more background information on her by clicking HERE.
Millar has a degree in Athletic Training, a certification in Yoga, Barre and Pilates and has turned her passion for anatomy, physiology, and kinesiology into a holistic approach to her teaching and choreography. On Monday, March 20th, the day after the company’s performances, Millar will for the first time be co-teaching an hour and a half class with Francesco Garri Garripoli also at Stomping Ground L.A. Millar has studied with Garripoli for two years, receiving a Qigong Teaching Certification in the Wuji Hundun and Organ Cleansing Forms.
Francesco Garri Garripoli is Chairman Emeritus and senior advisor to the National Qigong Association and current Chairman of the Qigong Institute. Hannah is an internationally renowned Choreographer and dance teacher, who uses dance and movement to guide others to their most authentic and free self.
During the class, Garripoli will guide the first half of the class in Meditation and Qigong followed by Hannah guiding the class in improvisational tasks and movement that flow off of Qigong, using the energy in and around our bodies to connect deeper with ourselves and those around us.
WHAT: Let Us Bleed, Then Heal performed by Imprints
WHERE: Stomping Ground L.A. Located at 5453 Alhambra Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90032
WHEN: Performances on Saturday, March 18 at 7:30 pm and Sunday, March 19 at 2:30 pm.
Class with Francesco Garri Garripoli and Millar on Monday, March 20 at 4:30 – 6:00 pm – also at Stomping Ground L.A.
TICKETS are on a sliding scale donation (pay what you can) $25-$45. To purchase tickets, please click HERE.
For more information on Hannah Millar and Imprints, please visit their website.
Written by Jeff Slayton For LA Dance Chronicle.
Featured image: Imprints – Halie Donabedian, Bailey Holladay, Julia Gonzalez, Jordyn Maxfield, and Lexi Amundarain in Hannah Millars Let Us Bleed, Then Heal – Photo by Tucker Maxfield