Painted Bride Art Center presents a piece of living dance history in Body Against Body by the Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Dance Company

Photo Credit: Julieta Cervantes
“Continuous Replay.” Photo by Julieta Cervantes

Think of this word in all its essence, as it pertains to moving for pure enjoyment and as it applies literally—to create again.  It is with this spirit the Painted Bride Art Center presents a piece of living dance history in Body Against Body by the Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Dance Company from February 21-23 at 8 p.m.  With support from the Pew Center for the Arts & Heritage Dance Advance Initiative, the Bride will present pre/post show opportunities, offering audiences historical context into the intricately-created duets of Bill T. Jones and the late Arnie Zane.

While Jones is most commonly recognized in recent years as the Tony award-winning choreographer of the Broadway hit Fela!, he was breaking ground in the 1970s with his late partner and collaborator Arnie Zane.  He revives his avant-garde roots with Body Against Body by restaging dances such as Monkey Run Road (1979) and Blauvelt Mountain (1980), recognized as revolutionary works for jolting and beautiful choreography consisting of two male dancers.  All of the pieces in Body Against Body address the themes of race and sexual orientation in small-scale duets, sometimes in the nude.

A must-experience opportunity for all serious dancers and lovers of the art, Body Against Body continues to offer radical social commentary and reminds us all of the omnipresent civil rights issues facing our nation.  The Bride facilitates the opportunity for sociopolitical arts discussion and progressive learning by offering lively audience engagement opportunities and a highly-developed program booklet with articles by national dance scholars and choreographers including Kyle Abraham, Camille Brown, Thomas Defrantz, and Ishmael Houston-Jones.

Intimacy is a pervasive theme of the weekend.  Because Body Against Body is made up of small-scale duets, it is especially perfect for the Bride’s 230-seat theater. The choreography captures the beauty of dance, while exploring the balance of conflicting themes that are historically apparent in all of the company’s work: challenge or cooperation, structuralism versus athleticism, abstract formality against raw introspective spoken expression. These works redefined modern dance in the early 80s and we experience a true collaboration that integrates contrasting physical styles while exploring issues of gender, race and politics.

Most importantly, this is not a rerun.  These pieces remain some of the most significant examples of the postmodern aesthetic, redefining the duet form and changing the face of American dance. Both conceptually and physically rigorous, the works take on new life through the diverse dancers of the Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Dance Company, providing a rare look at the origins of a widely acclaimed choreographer.  The content and thematic context remains judiciously forward-thinking and inspiring to current audiences. This work provides content for conversation to help facilitate this relevant dialogue, and the Bride has called upon its community partnership with the University of the Arts with special support from Donna Faye, Director of Dance, to propagate the discussion.  In this way, Body Against Body is not a reprisal of the past—it is an echo of the present.

blauvelt
“Blauvelt Mountain”

The Bride is doing much to make the social themes accessible.   Residency activities will enlighten audiences in new ways, without diminishing the integrity of the work.

Residency Audience Engagement Events

February 22, 2013
Pre-Show Workshop with Audience
6:30pm-7:30pm
Painted Bride Stage

February 23, 2013
Master Class with Janet Wong
1:00pm-3:00pm
Painted Bride Stage

February 23, 2013
Public Discussion and Q&A with Bill T. Jones
6:30pm-7:30pm
Painted Bride Gallery

In addition to Janet Wong’s master class, Wong will also offer her Video Installation of Body Against Body.  This 3-channel video installation juxtaposes footage from the original performances of “Blauvelt Mountain” by Jones/Zane with reconstructions of the work throughout the company’s history, performed by varying pairings of dancers of varying size, race, gender, and sexual orientation; some cases echo the contrasts of the Jones/Zane partnership while others introduce new questions and insights.  Through this carefully-prepared collage of multiple casts, the installation crystallizes core issues in the work.

The Bride will offer other opportunities throughout the weekend for the audience to react and engage in the Bill T. Jones experience.  Participants will be asked to express how this dance and dance as a whole makes them think and feel.  Answers will be compiled into slideshows and showcased prior to performances of Body Against Body.

Tickets are $25 in advance and $30 at the door.  Tickets can be purchased at paintedbride.org or over the phone, Tuesday – Saturday, 12pm – 6pm at 215-925-9914 or in person at the Painted Bride Art Center, 230 Vine Street, Philadelphia, PA, 19106.

About the Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Dance Co.

Over the past 30 years the Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Dance Company has shaped the evolution of contemporary dance through the creation and performance of over 140 works. Founded as a multicultural dance company in 1982, the company was born of an 11-year artistic collaboration between Bill T. Jones and Arnie Zane. Today, the company is recognized as one of the most innovative and powerful forces in the modern dance world. The company has performed its ever-enlarging repertoire worldwide in over 200 cities in 30 countries on every major continent. In 2011, the Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Dance Company merged with Dance Theater Workshop to form New York Live Arts of which Bill t. Jones is the Executive Artistic Director.

The repertory of the Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Dance Company is widely varied in its subject matter, visual imagery and stylistic approach to movement, voice and stagecraft and includes musically-driven works as well as works using a variety of texts. Some of its most celebrated creations are evening length works including Last Supper at Uncle Tom’s Cabin/The Promised Land (1990, Next Wave Festival at the Brooklyn Academy of Music); Still/Here (1994, Biennale de la Danse in Lyon, France); We Set Out Early… Visibility Was Poor (1996, Hancher Auditorium, Iowa City, IA); You Walk? (2000, European Capital of Culture 2000,Bolgna, Italy); Blind Date (2006, Peak Performances at Montclair State University); Chapel/Chapter (2006, Harlem Stage Gatehouse); Fondly Do We Hope… Fervently Do We Pray (2009, Ravinia Festival, Highland Park, IL); Another Evening: Venice/Arsenale (2010, La Biennale di Venezia, Venice, Italy); and Story/Time (2012, Peak Performances); and A Rite (2013, Carolina Performing Arts at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill). The Company is also currently touring Play and Play: an evening of movement and music, two repertory programs featuring music-inspired works.

About Bill T. Jones

BILL T. JONES, a multi-talented artist, choreographer, dancer, theater director and writer, has received major honors ranging from a 1994 MacArthur “Genius” Award to Kennedy Center Honors in 2010. He was inducted into the American Academy of Arts & Sciences in 2009 and named “An Irreplaceable Dance Treasure” by the Dance Heritage Coalition in 2000. His ventures into Broadway theater resulted in a 2010 Tony Award for Best Choreography in the critically acclaimed FELA!, the new musical co-conceived, co-written, directed and choreographed by Mr. Jones. He also earned a 2007 Tony Award for Best Choreography in Spring Awakening as well as an Obie Award for the show’s 2006 off-Broadway run. His choreography for the off-Broadway production of The Seven earned him a 2006 Lucille Lortel Award.

Mr. Jones began his dance training at the State University of New York at Binghamton (SUNY), where he studied classical ballet and modern dance. After living in Amsterdam, Mr. Jones returned to SUNY, where he became co-founder of the American Dance Asylum in 1973. In 1982 he formed the Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Dance Company (then called Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane & Company) with his late partner, Arnie Zane. In 2010, Mr. Jones was named Executive Artistic Director of New York Live Arts, a new model of artist-led, producing/presenting/touring arts organization unique in the United States that was formed by a merger of the Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Dance Company and Dance Theater Workshop.

In addition to creating more than 140 works for his own company, Mr. Jones has received many commissions to create dances for modern and ballet companies, including Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, Boston Ballet, Lyon Opera Ballet, and Berlin Opera Ballet, among others. In 1995, Mr. Jones directed and performed in a collaborative work with Toni Morrison and Max Roach, Degga, at Alice Tully Hall, commissioned by Lincoln Center’s Serious Fun Festival. His collaboration with Jessye Norman, How! Do! We! Do!, premiered at New York’s City Center in 1999.

His work in dance has been recognized with the 2010 Jacob’s Pillow Dance Award; the 2005 Wexner Prize; the 2005 Samuel H. Scripps American Dance Festival Award for Lifetime Achievement; the 2003 Dorothy and Lillian Gish Prize; and the 1993 Dance Magazine Award. His additional awards include the Harlem Renaissance Award in 2005; the Dorothy B. Chandler Performing Arts Award in 1991; multiple New York Dance and Performance Bessie Awards for his works The Table Project (2001), The Breathing Show (2001), D-Man in the Waters (1989) and the Company’s groundbreaking season at the Joyce Theater (1986). In 1980, 1981 and 1982, Mr. Jones was the recipient of Choreographic Fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, and in 1979 he was granted the Creative Artists Public Service Award in Choreography.

Mr. Jones was profiled on NBC Nightly News and The Today Show in 2010 and was a guest on the Colbert Report in 2009. Also in 2010, he was featured in HBO’s documentary series MASTERCLASS, which follows notable artists as they mentor aspiring young artists. In 2009, Mr. Jones appeared on one of the final episodes of Bill Moyers Journal, discussing his Lincoln suite of works. He was also one of 22 prominent black Americans featured in the HBO documentary The Black List in 2008. In 2004, ARTE France and Bel Air Media produced Bill T. Jones-Solos, highlighting three of his iconic solos from a cinematic point of view. The making of Still/Here was the subject of a documentary by Bill Moyers and David Grubin entitled Bill T. Jones: Still/Here with Bill Moyers in 1997. Additional television credits include telecasts of his works Last Supper at Uncle Tom’s Cabin/The Promised Land (1992) and Fever Swamp (1985) on PBS’s “Great Performances” Series. In 2001, D-Man in the Waters was broadcast on the Emmy-winning documentary Free to Dance.

Bill T. Jones’s interest in new media and digital technology has resulted in collaborations with the team of Paul Kaiser, Shelley Eshkar and Marc Downie, now known as Open Ended Group. The collaborations include After Ghostcatching – the 10th Anniversary re-imagining of Ghostcatching (2010, SITE Sante Fe Eighth International Biennial); 22 (2004, Arizona State University’s Institute for Studies In The Arts and Technology, Tempe, AZ); and Ghostcatching – A Virtual Dance Installation (1999, Cooper Union, New York, NY).

He has received honorary doctorates from Yale University, Art Institute of Chicago, Bard College, Columbia College, Skidmore College, the Juilliard School, Swarthmore College and the State University of New York at Binghamton Distinguished Alumni Award, where he began his dance training with studies in classical ballet and modern dance.

In addition to his Company and Broadway work, Mr. Jones also choreographed Sir Michael Tippet’s New Year (1990) for Houston Grand Opera and Glyndebourne Festival Opera. His Mother of Three Sons was performed at the Munich Biennale, New York City Opera and the Houston Grand Opera. Mr. Jones also directed Lost in the Stars for the Boston Lyric Opera. Additional theater projects include co-directing Perfect Courage with Rhodessa Jones for Festival 2000 in 1990. In 1994, he directed Derek Walcott’s Dream on Monkey Mountain for The Guthrie Theater in Minneapolis, MN.

About Janet Wong

Associate Artistic Director, Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Dance Company
Janet Wong was born in Hong Kong and trained in Hong Kong and London. Upon graduation she joined the Berlin Ballet, where she first met Bill T. Jones when he was invited to choreograph on the company.  In 1993, she moved to New York to pursue other interests. Ms. Wong became rehearsal director of the Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Dance Company in 1996 and associate artistic director in August 2006.

(2016)

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