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Flash Review 2, 7-20:
In Company with Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane
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By Terry Hollis
Copyright 2000 Terry Hollis
Sometimes it doesn't
matter how much you care about someone, the time you spend alone
does more to shape your ideals, perceptions, strengths, and most
of all your weaknesses. Without another person there to filter your
experiences you are left to do the job alone, and you're all the
better for it. While Bill T. Jones's "You Walk?", seen last night
at LaGuardia Concert Hall, concentrates on the role of the group
and the massive influence it summons, what comes through is an inherent
respect for the individual. I'm sure it's no coincidence that the
first word in the sentence projected on the rear screen was "We...".
Presented as part of the Lincoln Center Festival 2000, "You Walk?"
gives us a standard for viewing the one against the many.
Set primarily against
a series of white hangings (by Bjorn G. Amelan) and beautifully
realized rear projections (provided by Paul Kaiser) the piece opens
with something reminiscent of a folk ritual. We are introduced to
what might be considered the signs and symbols of this group. The
dancers form a circle, and using everything from breathing and vocalizing
to odd stationary poses, they establish an uncompromising sense
of community. As the work progresses, Mr. Jones brings back these
motifs and uses them to bridge the gap between each section, but
as the piece gains momentum we begin to see just how ingrained these
movements are. They become symbolic of people processing their lives.
After Germaul Barnes
and Toshiko Oiwa pair off in the first half of the piece, they continue
to reappear. Their dialogue remains constant and at times seems
to contradict the moods and intentions of the rest of the group.
It seems to work against the flow, but even this kind of discord
serves a purpose. It's refreshing to see a break in all of the order
that's been set up, and even more so when we realize no one else
notices. This is a community that has learned to live with all of
the quirks the world has to offer.
The piece is definitely
strongest in it's first half. Sound designer Gregory Bain has woven
a fascinating mix of abstract sounds and traditional music from
such disparate sources as Medieval Europe and the Amazons. Using
this as a guide, we are led through several loose interpretations
of world cultures; the stately dances of old Europe, a brief salute
to the red flag of communism. Coupled with committed performances
by the company, the first half of the work acts as a blueprint of
global distinctions. Ever aware that nothing stands alone, Mr. Jones
has colored each section with what is to come or what has already
been so that not only are the performers alone/together but so are
the circumstances in which they find themselves.
Some of the strongest
images in the work are held in it's second half, which is disappointing
because you want them to connect to the rich past the piece has
set up, but they seem to exist in a wash of bravura dancing. One
memorable moment has Stephanie Bland, Eric Bradley and Miguel Anaya
cleanly executing movement with their backs to us while Mozart is
played over a "boom box" on stage. Gradually this scene moves from
order to an almost sublime disorder while each component stays within
its boundaries. Societal chaos. Another section sends each performer
before the others to demonstrate his or her "individuality." Now
we get to see, for the first time, what they have been holding back,
what might not fit into the group. Some of the most fearless and
nuanced dancing is to be found in this portion of the program. Particularly
from Ayo Janeen Jackson, who couples sincerity and force.
At the end of "You Walk?",
the dancers make a human pile on stage right while a projection
slowly makes a cosmos of the entire space, suggesting an even larger
community and at once expanding the scope of the piece. Just when
you are becoming uncomfortable about the weight they must be taking,
one by one they get up and each takes their place on the stage.
So ultimately it doesn't matter how a society appears on the surface
or what the customs are that gather us together; what binds us,
strangely enough, is our separateness.
"You Walk" repeats Friday
and Saturday at 8 p.m.. The company also includes: Alexandra Beller,
Catherine Cabeen, Christian Canciani, and Daniel Russell Kubert.
Editor's Note: Bill T.
Jones/Arnie Zane Company's Lincoln Center season also includes Jones's
solo program, "The Breathing Show," tonight at 8 p.m. For Asimina
Chremos's previous review of this work, see Flash
Review 1, 4-22: Me and Mr. Jones.
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