BILL T. JONES FEATURE
Jones is one of a number of choreographers who merge different styles of dance in their work. Look out for his use of Afro-Caribbean, improvisation and the 20th century modern technique created by fellow New Yorker Merce Cunningham. His choice of dancers, however, is equally diverse and this is rare. Instead of the uniformity of the British companies — London Contemporary Dance Theatre, for example — Jones has hired men and women of different races, with widely varying heights and weights, and multifarious dance backgrounds. He makes striking use of these contrasts in Swoon which is based on two different duets: one with the two smallest men in the company, the other a more typical casting of man/woman. It will be intriguing to compare the two couples in alternate performances and note what each brings to the dance.
If there is a theme to Jones’ Edinburgh programme it is his response to Zane’s death and he’d agree that such a central and poignant experience will influence him for the rest of his life. He has always been at the forefront of personal/political expression through dance and it is no surprise that his current concerns are especially relevant in 1993. ‘I learned a lot about love from Arnie’s passing,’ he says. ‘ln Soon we say, “You want to make love to me? Make love to me soon. You want to kiss me“? Kiss me soon.” It’s an encouragement to all people who love and think about loving, to do it now.’ He points out how the HIV virus is spreading particularly to heterosexual women in both the US and Britain, emphasising the topicality of his work.
‘nambunctlous nan-baroque court dance from another 390'.
Jones understands his audiences; his infectious sense of humour underpins his appeal, his positive worldview summed up in the lines of Doc Taylor and the Chicago Blues Machine whose music is used in Last Night on [fart/1 — ‘Hey everybody let’s have some fun, you only live once and when you’re dead you’re done, so let the good times roll.’
‘The thing about this piece,’ says Jones, ‘is that l dance the whole thing in a tiny, diaphanous skirt designed by Rifat Ozbek who is known for his incongruous costumes. I am very much a man, but there is an erogenous image going on. I do it to show all the parts of me. I have the body of an athlete
and I’m not doing drag. I don’t really feel very feminine in it but the fact is that it’s me.’
Next on the bill is Fete which Jones sums up as a ‘rambunctious neo-baroque court dance from another age’. He invited a Baroque dance specialist into rehearsals to teach his dancers the real thing. Making some adjustments, he came up with a piece that contrasts the formality of set steps with the energy of modern dance. Duets are formed, people change partners, there are men, women, and a ‘cross-dresser’. ‘Ultimately the piece is about who ends up with whom and who ends up with no-one,’ he explains.
But perhaps the most famous of Jones’ dances to be shown at the Festival is D-Man in the Waters. Set to the Octet in E ﬂat opus 20 by Mendelssohn, the work is very physical and needs a lot of space. D-Man is an abbreviation of Demian Aquavella, a dancer with the company until his death from AIDS in I990. ‘1 had a dream of Demian and Arnie and a whole host of other people in the water, flailing around,’ says Jones. ‘Some people were swimming strongly, others had already drowned, some were saving each other, some were suffering, and some were having a great time. That’s where the image of the title comes from. In a dream you see a way to survive and you are filled with joy.’
Full of adventure, with dare-devil slides and bodies flinging themselves everywhere, it is in D- Man in the Waters that the company is at its best. ‘Every night,’ promises Jones, ‘we take ourselves to the point of exhaustion for those people who are not able to do it.’ C]
Bill T Jones/Arnie Zane And Dancers (Festival) King ’3 Theatre 225 5756, 28, 29 Aug 7.30pm; 29 Aug, 2.30pm, £5—£l8.50.
The List 27 August-9 September 1993 19