Magazine article Dance Magazine

Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Dance Company

Magazine article Dance Magazine

Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Dance Company

Article excerpt

Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Dance Company

Yerba Buena Center for the Arts

San Francisco, CA

October 1-3, 2009

Burdened by the sheer weight of the material packed into this 85-minute meditation on Abraham Lincoln, Bill T. Jones' Fondly Do We Hope ... Fervently Do We Pray is kept afloat by the extraordinary dancers and collaborators of his company. But it is a bumpy ride.

Jones' mind ranges far and wide trying to sort out what works and what doesn't in this country. No wonder his fragmented vision turns problematic onstage. The robust lyricism of the text--both his and what he borrows--approaches the rhapsodic intensity of Walt Whitman. This type of language is, perhaps, more at home in poetry than in the theater. Ultimately Fondly runs away from us like the train whose shadowy image recurs throughout the piece.

Although the voyage is a little rough, it's also noble and grand, befitting a work commemorating the bicentennial of Lincoln's birth. (Fondly was commissioned for that occasion by the Ravinia Festival.) Lincoln (Paul Matteson) and his wife, Mary Todd Lincoln (Asli Bulbul), join a canvas of portrait sketches of ordinary folk: a soldier, a factory worker, a dancer. The actor Jamyl Dobson assumes the role of Lincoln/Jones as a seer/prophet figure.

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Giving flesh to the words is the dancers' job. Except in a few instances--in particular Bulbul as Mary Todd and Peter Chamberlin as Lady Liberty--the choreography doesn't so much interpret as comment on the text. …

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