Generations Find Place at Jones's Table

Article excerpt

GENERATIONS FIND PLACE AT JONES'S TABLE

BILL T. JONES/ARNIE ZANE DANCE COMPANY AARON DAVIS HALL NEW YORK, NEW YORK MAY 11, 2001

Performing formally for the first time in New York since 1996, the Jones/Zane company capped its four-year community-oriented residency at Harlem's Aaron Davis Hall with its premiere of The Table Project, performed by local residents--non-dancers all. A thoughtful exercise in casting and perception, the piece is delightfully simple: Six middle-aged men, including Jones, amble atop and around a long, blocklike "table" designed by Bjorn Amelan and flanked by steps on either end; then six young girls take their place and perform exactly the same dance again.

Given its lighthearted humor, the piece played like a double feature of Grumpy Old Men and Little Rascals.

Rather than elongated phrases, Jones created choreography comprised of signs, gestural language, and everyday movement. As a trio performed Schubert's Adagio in E-flat for Piano, Violin and Cello, "Notturno," onstage, the men plopped themselves on stools and raised their hands in a "wave"; marched happily across the table; followed a confused leader only to give up and slap the air as if to say, "Aw, phooey!" The men, stocky and mostly bald, were not agile--even Jones stumbled a few times--which lent the piece much of its charm and humor. Yet they also manage to convey a poignant humanity a kind of narrative of prosaic struggle and small triumphs. When they climbed atop the table and braced each other to create a majestic tableau, it felt as heroic as if they had gained the summit of Mount Everest.

The girls, on the other hand, were like kids on a jungle gym--friskier, more limber, and genuinely graceful. Despite a few hesitancies and choreographic mishaps, they bowled confidently into the roles, even adding a back flip here or a sassy arm akimbo there. …