Dance Review: Serenade/The Proposition

Some of the messages seemed a bit naive, yet the production turned out to be a highly cohesive piece of art, original, beautiful and very touching.

dance theater 311 (photo credit: Courtesy)
dance theater 311
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Bill T. Jones
Dance Company
Serenade/The Proposition
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 andsongs, all that comes naturally. But there is a price to be paid.
Jones, a choreographer with a serious mission, basically says that onehas to take history personally and use dance to convey it, thusrejecting the prevalent approach of his American contemporaries, whichprioritizes form and favors the easy-going and almost-abstract.
In the first act, the weaker part of the evening, the dancers, inrehearsal clothes, performed rather mundane, partially stylizedpost-modern moves that had trouble competing with the music forattention. Some of the messages and artistic solutions seemed a bitnaïve. 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 lexiconbecame bolder, its spirit better defined. And almost like a chamberopera of sorts, Serenade/The Proposition turned outto be a highly cohesive piece of art, impressively original, beautifuland very touching.