Magazine article Dance Magazine

Still Here

Magazine article Dance Magazine

Still Here

Article excerpt

During 1994, Bill T. Jones could boast of a New Yorker profile, a Time cover story, a New York Times Magazine feature, designation as resident choreographer of Lyon Opera Ballet, and a $265,000 MacArthur fellowship. His cup ran comfortably over.

Before reaching the stage, Still/Here, his latest work, went through a public gestation process in fourteen locales. Jones made a well-publicized journey to conduct amateur group therapy sessions (called "survival workshops") with clusters of terminally ill people.

He seems to find inspiration in pain and death made public. For example, every dancegoer is aware of the AIDS-related demise of Jones's partner, Arnie Zane, and of Jones's own HIV-positive status. But in Still/Here, the process turned out to be more persuasive than the resulting dance. A work of art should offer insight beyond the circumstances that set it in motion. I missed this insight in Jones's choreography.

During the journey, his collaborators were armed with microphones and videotapes. Individual testimonies and shots of thin faces and sparse hair occupied Gretchen Bender's sensitively filmed and boldly manipulated video interpretation; and I was often touched by the recorded voice of Odetta, so scratchy-sweet as she sang the heartfelt lyrics of Kenneth Frazelle during the first half of Still/Here. (Vernon Reid's score for the second half was more tumultuous but less affecting.)

Videotape and music succeeded in transmuting the raw material into fresh form, while the choreography rarely did. …

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