Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Dance Company

September 16, 2004

Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Dance Company
Audiorium Parco Della Musica, Rome, Italy

September 16–19, 2004

Reviewed by Sima Belmar


The Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Dance Company, scheduled in an outdoor venue, opened the Romaeuropa Festival two days late due to torrential rains. The audience, which entered the space to find Jones and the dancers warming up in navy-blue dance clothes with numbers affixed to the front and back like marathon competitors, was restless. Jones let them have it: “Do you know what’s going on? We got rained out two nights. Everyone’s been busting their butts not to have to turn you away. Be cool! Be cool!”

The crowd settled down and Another Evening, a collage of moments from dances past blended with new material, began. On an all-white stage, the 10-member company performed Jones’ signature movements: a ripple sent through a long, low arabesque, a taut arm that breaks at the elbow, an aikido roll, syncopated footwork, head-first cabrioles that end prone on the floor. Music director and violinist Daniel Bernard Roumain performed original compositions along with computer-generated samples of music used in previous company dances.

The numbers on the front of the costumes represented the dancers’ dates of birth, those on the back the year that changed their lives. These markers in time, along with Jones’ narrative about his personal history, which he recited at intervals throughout the piece, and the choreographic quotations, expressed pain, loss, and a bold hope for humanity in this post-9/11 world.

The movement was virtuosic and pedestrian by turns. The dancers changed costumes frequently, moving from rehearsal clothes to black underwear to full nudity to pink-and-white flowing garments. They met as friends might, smiling and making gentle contact. One of the few moments that lingered in an otherwise frenetic piece evoked a heartbreaking tenderness: two men embracing in stillness, one a plank leaning back, the other holding him up and resting his head against his throat.

Jones, counting the years from 1971, when he and Zane began collaborating, and reaching 2060 at the end of the piece, juxtaposed himself against the group. His eloquence as a speaker and mover appeared undiminished beneath his now more-salt-than-pepper crown. He cut the space with his arms, slicing through 20 years of artistic toil, looking back on a life of dance and forward into an uncertain future, placing his trust in the power of art to heal all wounds.

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