Bill T. Jones is coming to town again — and don't expect anything less than controversy. The choreographer's new piece, entitled Blind Date, is Jones' response to politics, patriotism, and the "war on terror." Mr. Jones does not take being an artist lightly, and his socio-conscious choreography is multilayered. Blind Date not only uses movement but incorporates an ever-changing set by Bjorn Amelan, video from Peter Nigrini, and original music by Daniel Bernard Roumain. The audience is asked to multitask, and in this high-speed world, Jones knows that we can understand art this way.
The Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Dance Company began in 1982. The two men were partners in work and life. When Zane died of AIDS in 1988, the company remained the poster child for postmodernism dealing with challenging subject matter like homosexuality, racism, gender roles, and socio-political issues. The impact of Jones' work comes not only from the difficult themes he chooses, but through the poetic beauty in his movement that's paired with the theatricality of the visual effects.
Erick Monte, a young dancer from Mexico, has been working with Jones for three years. He says Blind Date illustrates Jones' own conflicted feelings about George W. Bush after his reelection. "As a company," says Monte, "we discussed our reflections on the war, freedom, and society. We were surprised when we realized we differed so much in opinion." These differences inspired the piece.
The dancers come from all over — places like Taiwan, Turkey, and Cuba — and make the company truly global. "(Jones) wants the world of the company to be like the world around him," says Monte. "Blind Date is a bridge or a translation of a general voice. The dancers collaborate on the material, and Bill T. Jones shapes it into his style and aesthetic."
Monte feels a big responsibility, personally, as a Mexican artist in an American dance company. It's important for him to keep his identity. "I sing the Mexican National Anthem, which is my only weapon," he says. "I feel proud of the skills and tools that I brought from Mexico. There I was trained, and I feel lucky to express myself in America — it is a privilege." Jones is a visionary, parallelling the work to current events. If art imitates life, it only makes sense that as things become more complex, so should our art.
"As a performer, you are used in every sense — Bill T. Jones is always asking more from us in the technique of the movement as well as emotionally," he says. "Bill T. Jones sees the anger, courage, and strength of the dancers and is concerned how we will face the issues of the world. I am not a politician but an artist — a dancer, but we try to cross lines and we are moving in social ways."
As all great art should, Blind Date transcends the work and becomes an experience that allows the audience to reflect on larger issues and think a little bit harder, inspired by the dance and movement they see on stage.
BLIND DATE — Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Dance Company • Spoleto Festival USA • $25-$45 • June 1-3 at 8 p.m. • 2 hours • Sottile Theatre, 44 George St. • 579-3100