Arab Today, arab today focus remains on opposites to attract an audience
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Arab Today, arab today
Arab Today, arab today

Focus remains on opposites to attract an audience

Arab Today, arab today

Arab Today, arab today Focus remains on opposites to attract an audience

Washington - Arabstoday

New York’s dancegoers are learning to use a new name, New York Live Arts, for the place that used to be Dance Theater Workshop. No physical change is apparent in the theater or its foyer. The new institution, described as “an artist-led, producing, and presenting arts organization” that strives “to create a robust framework in support of the nation’s dance and movement-based artists,” has come about as a merger of the old Dance Theater Workshop and the Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Dance Company. A busy season, looking lively on paper, lies ahead. I wish it well.The program with which it began last weekend, however, was choreographically trivial. Friday and Saturday evenings brought the first local performances of “Body Against Body,” two programs of work first made by Mr. Jones and Mr. Zane between 1977 and 1982. I have no quarrel with the programs’ ingredients. Dancers of different shapes, sizes and races performed together. The look is nonvirtuoso — men were partnered and lifted by women or by other men — and one item, “Continuous Replay” (1977, revised by Mr. Jones in 1991), featured nudity and guest appearances by some of the most eminent figures from New York’s dance world.Moment by moment the Jones/Zane choreography knows how to grab your attention. Pronounced contrasts of dynamics, space, direction and scale proliferate. Attention seeking, indeed, is very close to the heart of the Jones/Zane endeavor; the choreography is intensely audience-focused and frequently on the cusp of knowing cuteness, even at its most serious. Although viewers may find that the mind wanders, the eye doesn’t.“Continuous Replay,” occurring on both programs and featuring different guest artists on Friday and Saturday, is a thorough primer in Jones/Zane style: sharp versus flowing, large versus small, straight versus angled. Though the dancers advance through space in straight lines by means of metric footwork, the main emphasis is on the upper body. Turns of the head to the audience have special emphasis, and in the most memorable gesture, dancers turn their faces to the front to deliver a double hiss (almost a “hee-hee” sound) through gritted teeth.The Jones/Zane dancers do the style much better than the guest artists, of course. And yet this doesn’t mean they’re better dancers. The Jones/Zane style is superficial but showy: it’s so much about emphasis that an evening of the company leaves an impression not of dancing but of an enactment of dancing, a kind of good parody by effective mimics.It looks better today than it did 30 years ago, when I first watched Mr. Jones and Mr. Zane in their own work. The pieces no longer reek of ego, and none of today’s dancers have the awkward tension and disagreeable slickness that characterized the dancing of Mr. Zane (who died in 1988). But none of the choreography has enough substance to be worth reviving. Despite the impeccably liberal ingredients, every work here exhibits a guarded, sly tone that feels far from open-spirited.Apart from “Continuous Replay” the repertory consists of Jones/Zane duets. Program A, which I saw Friday, begins with “Monkey Run Road” (1979, reconstructed in 2011) danced by two men (Talli Jackson, tall, and Erick Montes, short). It ends with “Valley Cottage: A Study” (1980-81, reconstructed in 2011), which was first danced in 1980 at Dance Theater Workshop and is danced this season by a different couple — male-female, male-male, female-female — at each performance. (Friday’s was Paul Matteson and Jennifer Nugent.) Program B starts with “Duet x 2” (1982, reconstructed in 2003), in which LaMichael Leonard Jr. dances first with Antonio Brown and then with Talli Jackson. It ends with “Blauvelt Mountain” (1980, reconstructed in 2002), danced by Mr. Matteson and Ms. Nugent.Each duet makes its own kind of theater. “Duet x 2” is in silence; in “Blauvelt Mountain” the dancers talk now and then, lobbing isolated words at each other (“marriage,” “open”); and “Monkey Run Road” features some talking too. The music for “Valley Cottage” includes both live dialogue and some taped speech. (“Sex is still on my mind even now — strange considering my last attempt.”) The set for “Duet x 2” is a pair of swinging saloon doors; the set for “Monkey Run Road” is a kind of wooden sink that the two dancers maneuver around the stage.Yet each piece feels like a series of short-term ideas and effects. Sustained dance virtues of phrasing or control are never the point here. There is a whole array of devices to keep reclaiming your attention. The nudity of “Continuous Replay,” needless to say, is one of the most effective. For the record, the company members made their first appearances naked, though Mr. Jones kept his glasses on.On Friday the guest artists (including Janet Eilber, artistic director of the Martha Graham company; Matthew Rushing, rehearsal director of the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater; and Robert Swinston, director of choreography of the Merce Cunningham company) began with some underwear. On Saturday they did not. The dancer Erick Montes, onstage throughout, remained naked while everyone else acquired first some black garments, later some white ones.When I first watched Mr. Jones and Mr. Zane in the early 1980s, the me-me-me manner of their performing struck me as entirely objectionable. With younger — largely better — dancers in their roles, that is no longer true. But the dances themselves look like facile, shallow entertainments. Thirty years on, it is puzzling to find them revived.

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