Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Dance Company Review - Re-imagining Repertory at the Dance Center of Columbia College

Reimagining Repertory:  Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Dance Company Opens The Dance Center of Columbia College Season

Voted “Best Dance Value” by the Chicago Reader, The Dance Center of Columbia College continues to be the leading presenter of contemporary dance in this city.  Not only is this intimate, 272 seat theater a perfect venue to see innovative, smaller companies, but free performance talks by the artists as well as master classes offered to the community ensure the continued vibrancy and relevance of the art in Chicago.

And what better way to reflect this aesthetic than with the Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Dance Company, the Dance Center’s 2011-12 season opener.  The small-scale works showcased in this tour are tailor –made for an intimate space, and Jones’ choice of programming – retooled dances from the late 70’s/early 80’s – reinforce the timelessness of these deeply personal dances.

Program A of “Body Against Body” begins with a duet entitled Monkey Run Road.  Two men of contrasting heights -- Talli Jackson and Erick Montes, clearly evoking the look of Jones and Zane, the choreographers/original performers -- casually push a large plywood box onto the stage.  They quietly converse, stop, shift the box closer downstage, adopt shapes, then push the box back stage left.  This beginning is then repeated and developed, with moments of tenderness followed by humor (At one point, Mr. Montes is half-concealed inside the box).

Talli Jackson and Erick Montes in Monkey Run Road; photos by Paul B. Goode

The duet is at times frustrating and obtuse, as when Mr. Montes breaks into Spanish song.  But the work is ever fascinating and compelling.  The clarity of the dancers’ lines, sudden repeated gestures such as a finger point preceding a focal shift, and the intensity with which the two performers commit to the movement is nothing less than engaging.

The soundscore by Helen Thorington adds to the intensity, a hum with incidental sounds that builds in the background until its sudden cessation emphasizes its presence.  A recorded voice relates a story about a radio broadcast of “planes being dispatched to a small island in the Atlantic.”  Later, this poetry takes on a more urgent tone as spoken by Mr. Jackson: “Three bombers.  Three little boys.  Small pink island in the pacific.”  It’s evocative stuff, and melds with shapes seen earlier (The incredible wingspan of Mr. Jackson comes to mind, as his torso tilts and his arms cut through the space like an aircraft banking a turn).

The third dance on the program, Valley Cottage: A Study, is also a duet.  As performed by Paul Matteson and Jennifer Nugent, it is a generous, tender expression of fear, loss, love, and memory.  That it also includes movement vocabulary from Monkey Run Road is obvious; similar positions are struck, floor patterns around a partner repeated.   Initially, the effect is similar to watching Paul Taylor’s Polaris, where midway through the work a new quartet of dancers enter and perform the exact same choreography.  It’s fascinating to see how different dancers infuse the same movement with their unique interpretations.  But the similarity ends there as the section concludes and Ms. Nugent is carried piggyback across the stage while the recorded voices of Jones and Zane are heard.  “Let’s go swimming,” Jones’ voice intones, and the duet becomes something other than a reinterpretation of shared movement vocabulary. 

Paul Matteson and Jennifer Nugent in Valley Cottage

An intensely physical dance of shared balances, flips, and rolls, Valley Cottage is extremely personal and poignant.  Like half-remembered stories, the work has a fragmented quality to it as text is woven throughout the movement phrases.  “Sex is still on my mind even now,” Mr. Matteson says in a crouch while his partner moves as if in another room or time.  “Strange, considering my last attempt.”   It’s these little, loaded sentences that resonate and add layers to a duet that seems as fresh now as it must have been in 1980.

Bookended by these duets is Continuous Replay, a dance from 1977 originally created as a solo and now updated to include the company plus guest dancers from Columbia College.  Dramatic in its lighting by Robert Wierzel and bas relief groupings of naked bodies entering upstage along the perimeter of the space, the work also benefits greatly from the contribution of composer and Columbia Music Director, Richard Woodbury.  Listed as “DJ” in the program, Mr. Woodbury manipulates the chosen palette of sounds – everything from Stravinsky to buzzing bees to amped-up Beethoven -- live during the performance.  It’s a score that ably matches the variety of the movement invention, as “the clock” (Erick Montes) leads the company across the stage in an accumulation of repeated phrasing


Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Dance Company in Continuous Replay

Mr. Montes remains unclothed and on stage throughout, as the other dancers exit and enter the space, first wearing pieces of black undergarments – bra only on one, pants and headband on another – then gradually return wearing white.  It’s fascinating to watch the transformation on the stage, as less flesh is visible and color shift occurs.  Throughout, there are gorgeous moments of counterpoint in solos and duets, again harking to the work that launched the careers of Mr. Jones and the late Arnie Zane.

It is a testament to their artistry and vision that the dances survive in these new incarnations. 


Performance Schedule and Tickets for the 2011/2012 Season at The Dance Center:

Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Dance Company

SEPTEMBER 29 - OCTOBER 1, 2011 * 8:00 P.M.    

OCTOBER 1, 2011 * 3:00 P.M.

Program A: Thursday, September 29 * 8:00 p.m. & Saturday, October 1 * 3:00 p.m.

Valley Cottage (1980), Continuous Replay (1977, revised 1991), Monkey Run Road (1979)

Program B: Friday, September 30 * 8:00 p.m. & Saturday, October 1 * 8:00 p.m.

Duet X 2 (1982, revised 2003), Continuous Replay (1977, revised 1991), Blauvelt Mountain (1980, revised 2002)


Pick Up Performance Co(s)

OCTOBER 13 - 15, 2011 * 8:00 P.M.    


Cloud Gate Dance Theatre of Taiwan

OCTOBER 28 & 29, 2011 * 8:00 P.M.    

at The Harris Theater for Music and Dance in Millennium Park


Merce Cunningham Dance Company

NOVEMBER 18 & 19, 2011 * 8:00 P.M.    

at The Harris Theater for Music and Dance in Millennium Park

Program A: Friday, November 18, 2011 * 8:00 p.m.    

Squaregame (1976), Quartet (1982), Antic Meet (1958)

Program B: Saturday, November 19, 2011 * 8:00 p.m.    

Roaratorio (1983)


Margaret Jenkins Dance Company

FEBRUARY 9 - 11, 2012 * 8:00 P.M.    


Molly Shanahan/Mad Shak

FEBRUARY 23 - 25, 2012 * 8:00 P.M.    


The Space/Movement Project, Rachel Damon/Synapse Arts & Erica Mott

MARCH 8 - 10, 2012 * 8:00 P.M.    


Ballet Hispanico

MARCH 22 - 24, 2012 * 8:00 P.M.    


For tickets, contact:

The Dance Center 
1306 S. Michigan Ave
Chicago, Illinois 60605

Box Office Phone  (312) 369-8330
Main Phone  (312) 369-8300
Fax   (312) 369-8036


2011/2012 SEASON:

2011/2012 SEASON:

2011/2012 SEASON:

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