dance theater 311.
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Bill T. Jones
TAPAC, June 1
Very few dance-makers use text as a prominent element; fewer use it to convey straightforward socio-political messages and give it such prolonged center-stage presence as American choreographer Bill T. Jones.
His multi-disciplinary creation, Serenade/The Proposition
(2008), searches for the basic roots of the American ethos in the heritage of Abraham Lincoln, embedded in Lincoln’s speeches and the texts of his contemporaries.
The creator’s artistic priorities are state at the outset with the screening of a video prelude, in which of Jones discusses history, Lincoln, the Civil War, the dead, slavery and further elements of that era from personal point of view.
For Jones, who also worked in theater, musical stage and other media,
integrating dance with processed video-art images, original music and
songs, all that comes naturally. But there is a price to be paid.
Jones, a choreographer with a serious mission, basically says that one
has to take history personally and use dance to convey it, thus
rejecting the prevalent approach of his American contemporaries, which
prioritizes form and favors the easy-going and almost-abstract.
In the first act, the weaker part of the evening, the dancers, in
rehearsal clothes, performed rather mundane, partially stylized
post-modern moves that had trouble competing with the music for
attention. Some of the messages and artistic solutions seemed a bit
naïve. But soon it didn’t matter. There was truth in the air, the work
– with a cadre of only ten dancers – became more focused, its lexicon
became bolder, its spirit better defined. And almost like a chamber
opera of sorts, Serenade/The Proposition
to be a highly cohesive piece of art, impressively original, beautiful
and very touching.