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Flash Review 2, 7-20: Walking Alone/Together
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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