Keep it or­ganic

Pasatiempo - - Onstage This Week -

How do you ex­press a re­la­tion­ship through move­ment? For Bill T. Jones and Arnie Zane, cre­at­ing duets was an es­sen­tial part of their life part­ner­ship, al­though their dance vo­cab­u­lary was ex­per­i­men­tal, de­void of sen­ti­men­tal­ity, and al­most ruth­lessly ab­stract. Still, two early duets pre­sented by the Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Dance Com­pany, in con­nec­tion with the open­ing of SITE Santa Fe’s Eighth In­ter­na­tional Bi­en­nial (which in­cludes a dig­i­tal an­i­ma­tion piece based on im­pro­vi­sa­tions by Jones), were poignant, given that Zane died of AIDS-re­lated lym­phoma more than 20 years ago, that Jones has con­tin­ued to thrive as an artist but no longer per­forms, and that this kind of post­mod­ern dance from the ’ 80s is now con­sid­ered his­tor­i­cal.

Cast­ing was used to draw a clear dis­tinc­tion be­tween then and now. Nei­ther duet fea­tured dancers who re­sem­bled the chore­og­ra­phers at all. Jones and Zane were like a mul­tira­cial Mutt and Jeff — Jones tall, black, and heroic; Zane, short, white, and quirky. While Jones al­ways drew at­ten­tion for his physique and stage pres­ence, Zane’s con­tri­bu­tions to their chore­og­ra­phy of­ten im­bued it with hu­mor — a much-needed at­tribute in the oh-so-se­ri­ous world of the down­town dance scene in New York, where they built their rep­u­ta­tion.

One par­tic­u­lar phrase in Blau­velt Moun­tain (A Fic­tion) — from 1980 re­vised by Jones in 2002 — which fea­tured a man and a woman danc­ing the roles orig­i­nated by Jones and Zane, epit­o­mized Zane’s dance style. A sim­ple trav­el­ing mo­tif, break­ing out of a pe­riod of ath­letic part­ner­ing (of which there were many), it was a skip­ping step done with a cer­tain sis­si­fied joy, cut­ting loop-the-loops, zigzags, and lines in space. See­ing this step sev­eral times through­out the piece danced by Jen­nifer Nugent, and, once, near the end, by Paul Mat­te­son, who took Jones’ part, com­mu­ni­cated a sense of un­bri­dled love for move­ment, as well as the idea of two men try­ing to meet each other half­way in life.

The con­ceit in Duet X 2 (1982, re­vised in 2003) was that Jones danced the same duet (more or less) twice, with two dif­fer­ent men. As in Blau­velt Moun­tain, the post­mod­ern fas­ci­na­tion with rep­e­ti­tion is at the heart of the chore­og­ra­phy. Move­ments and phrases are re­peated in dif­fer­ent parts of the piece, and all over the stage, as if to make you think twice (or three times, or four). A lin­ger­ing im­age is that of the two dancers stand­ing side by side. The in­ti­macy sug­gested by the slow en­twin­ing reach of hands and arms is made dou­bly pow­er­ful at the end of the piece, when the orig­i­nal part­ner (An­to­nio Brown) comes back on to wit­ness the sec­ond pair (LaMichael Leonard with Talli Jack­son) get­ting hip to hip. It is as if Zane has been in­vited to come back from the af­ter­life to ob­serve Jones with a new hus­band.

Watch­ing the stun­ning phys­i­cal­ity and en­durance of the dancers through­out the evening made one wish not only that the en­tire com­pany could visit Santa Fe with its new Abra­ham Lin­coln-themed opus, Fondly Do We Hope … Fer­vently Do We Pray, but that the mem­bers of The Ope­nEnded Group, cre­ators of the an­i­mated piece — Af­ter Ghost­catch­ing, which had its pub­lic pre­miere at the Len­sic Per­form­ing Arts Cen­ter and shows at the SITE bi­en­nial in 3-D — could step away from their com­put­ers for a while to watch these dances. Af­ter Ghost­catch­ing looks like a sci­ence-fic­tion spe­cial-ef­fects show­case, rob­bing Jones of his dig­nity and adding, for some un­known rea­son, an over­all sense of dark­ness and evil. Sadly, there is no ap­par­ent cor­re­la­tion be­tween Jones and Zane’s love for peo­ple danc­ing and this dig­i­tal rep­re­sen­ta­tion.

— Michael Wade Simp­son

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.