Wednesday, October 4, 2017

"To our next...." A letter from Bill T. Jones and company



Last night, I walked away from Bill T. Jones's A Letter to My Nephew with a palpable sense of the man's unwavering concern and love for an individual as well as an entire community. Danced by the brilliant Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Company, the work takes inspiration from the life and personal struggles of the choreographer's nephew, dancer Lance T. Briggs. Jones reaches beyond this single relationship--described elsewhere as "complicated"--to embrace the culture and resistance of today's youth as they confront our violent, racist, homophobic society...and themselves.

This New York premiere of this 70-minute work for BAM Next Wave, presented in association with New York Live Arts, will run through this Saturday evening at BAM Harvey.

Jones keeps current--even adding the words "Las Vegas" to his acknowledgments of settings of atrocity, displacement and natural devastation. One feels two realities continuously entwine--the pain of life and the raw energy life offers us to make art and meaning. Jones and his team walk a perilous edge yet craft a meaningful world out of exhilarating energy.

Radiating across the marked-off intersection of performance space, their work blends street, ball and contemporary dance with the ingenious manipulation of a large prop. Movement within the body and among bodies flows with silky sophistication. The dance might be a hospitalized patient's fever dream of turf fights and catwalks in an environment changing so swiftly, so unpredictably, that one must shapeshift in order to survive. The poise and malleability of Jones's dancers--as individuals and as an ensemble--make this idea spring to life. Along with Jones and associate artistic director Janet Wong, the nine dancers contributed to the choreography and are given due credit. Let's celebrate them here, too: Vinson Fraley, Jr., Barrington Hinds, Shane Larson, I-Ling Liu, Penda N'Diaye, Jenna Riegel, Christina Robson, Carlo Antonio Villanueva, Huiwang Zhang.

Original score: Nick Hallett
Live vocals: Matthew Gamble
Set design: Bjorn Amelan
Lighting design: Robert Wierzel
Costume design: Liz Prince
Projection design: Janet Wong
Sound design: Samuel Crawford

A Letter to My Nephew runs through Saturday, October 7 with performances at 7:30pm. For information on other BAM Next Wave events, click here.

BAM Harvey
651 Fulton Street, Brooklyn
(map/directions)

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