Magazine article The Spectator

Love and Loss

Magazine article The Spectator

Love and Loss

Article excerpt

We Set Out Early. . . Visibility Was Poor

(Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Dance Company, Peacock Theatre)

The uncontrollable passion for classification which characterises today's culture has often led to labelling individual choreographic styles according to an arbitrary identification of recurring patterns, themes and technical motifs. Some eminent colleagues of mine, for instance, tend to dismiss Bill T. Jones's art by calling it a self-indulgent exploitation of man's innate skills and innermost feelings. Others simply regard his oeuvre as a series of frequently embarrassing political statements interspersed with some post-modern dance steps, and roll their eyes whenever they have to review him.

Indeed, direct or vividly symbolic imagery, more or less explicit references to controversial themes and the use of various theatrical means of expression rather than pure dancing have been some of the recurring and easily identifiable -- traits of Jones's choreography. His creations, however, do not rely on the indefinite repetition of the same formulas and, even when the subject matter looks similar, a more in-depth appreciation of the choreographic solutions reveals, every time, a tremendous number of thematic and structural innovations.

If there is a constant in Jones's works, it is the creative unpredictability that the eminent dance writer Donald Hutera refers to at the end of the programme note for We Set Out Early . . . Visibility Was Poor, the work which received its European premiere at the Peacock Theatre last week. Far from the intriguing and bemusing pictorial metaphors of Last Supper at Uncle's Tom Cabin/The Promised Land (1990) or from the lyrical and painful directness of Still/Here (1994) - the work that focused on terminally ill people and prompted a memorable quarrel among dance writers We Set Out Early... Visibility Was Poor encapsulates the last findings in Jones's quest for new ways of using the dance vocabulary, whether it be modern, classical or post-modern, and of turning it into 'theatre'.

Gone are the author's spoken interventions, those monologues some considered so self-indulgent, gone are the various structural solutions that contributed to the multi-layered nature of each creation, encompassing different theatrical idioms. …

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