The Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Dance Company performed at the University of Virginia as part of a three-part residency at UVA, in Charlottesville, VA. This evening, I was able to witness one of the modern dance greats speak about art – dance and choreography – and perform with his dance company as part of a work in progress showing at UVA.
As I watched Bill T. Jones before the performance standing on the side of the stage before the show, I was struck by the sheer honor it was to be in his presence and thankfulness for the gift he has given the modern dance world. He continues to define and defend modern dance and tonight’s performance was no exception.
While Story/Time is not finished, it is an evolving piece that takes chances and is influenced by John Cage’s Indeterminacy and time. The work is exactly 70 minutes and the stories that Bill T. Jones reads are reminiscent of Merce Cunningham in that the order and what stories are said is entirely up to chance.
The piece was brilliant; the quality of the movement was fluid and effortless as images flashed before our eyes and quickly melted away into another story with a quick ring of a bell. Only the melodrama story was repeated – and it was repeated with different characters and without voice.
My comfort while watching the piece was challenged – sometimes with the language that was used or the movement, as is the style of Bill T. Jones – always defying boundaries.
During the Q&A after the performance, an idea was brought up that was addressed in one of the stories Bill T. Jones said during the work. During the performance, a story was something along the lines of, “I was listening to John Cage and as I continued with my story I lost him, and that disturbed me.” During the piece I found myself thinking this exact thought because it was hard for me to listen to Bill as I watched the dancers and it was hard for me to watch what was happening in the movement when I focused on the stories. A woman in the audience mentioned, “If you let it blur a little – it begins to all cohere” – the music, voice, movement, scenes. Bill T. agreed with this thought saying, this work was “not designed to look at straight on.”
Bill T. Jones has not performed since he retired from dance 5 years ago. He wanted to create a work where he could participate in the dance, and choosing to use his stories and live voice were effective and evocative.
What is so great about dance is we each have a unique experience connecting with the imagery that is conveyed by sound and movement. And during the Q&A when someone gave a wishy washy answer to a specific question and was not aware of how to articulate their thoughts, Bill T. Jones quickly reminded her, “That sounds like a fake answer. Try Harder.”
If you saw this performance I would love to hear your thoughts, find me on twitter @Lokitis. And for more information about the Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Dance Company and the organization Live Arts, check out the New York Live Arts website.