Impressions of: Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Company's "Lance: Pretty aka The Escape Artist" at The Joyce
Date: October 30, 2016
Dancers: Antonio Brown, Rena Butler, Cain Coleman, Jr., Talli Jackson, Shane Larson, I-Ling Liu, Jenna Riegel, Cristina Robson, Carlo Antonio Villanueva
Composer: Nick Hallett; Baritone Matthew Gamble
Costume Designer: Liz Prince
Visuals: Janet Wong
Pictured above: Antonio Brown, Rena Butler, Carlo Antonio Villanueva, Shane Larson, Cain Coleman Jr., I-Ling Liu, and Jenna Riegel of Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Company performing Analogy/Lance: Pretty aka the escape artist at The Joyce Theater.
Bill. T. Jones has a certain je ne sais quoi.
After decades of shunning narratives in dance, the modern dance world is thinking again, embracing text and story, as exemplified by Jones in his “Analogy Trilogy,” a series based on oral histories he conducted, David Rousseve's (REALITY - BIttersweet) and Robert Wilson's (Letter to a Man).
Carlo Antonio Villanueva , Antonio Brown, Cain Coleman Jr., Talli Jackson, I-Ling Liu and Shane Larson of Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Company performing Analogy/Lance: Pretty aka the escape artist at The Joyce Theater. Photo by Yi-Chun Wu.
Jones’ Lance: Pretty aka The Escape Artist is an abstracted biography of squandered talent, told from a collective p.o.v., as written by Jones and Adrian Silver, a dramaturg who has also worked with choreographers Pontus Lidberg, and Colleen Thomas. Rather than have one protagonist in this 80-minute work, the company shapes the scenes and environments, from ballet studio to clubs to rehabs, so that we can imagine how it would feel to be Lance, someone divided and torn. Some of his choices seem natural, given the temptations, and others tragic. This recounting of a wayward youth flows with an empathetic tone, never becoming a morality tale. In the final exchanges, Bill asks, “Nephew, I am still listening to understand what I have to learn about loving you and about you loving me, and when is the time to let go.”
Talli Jackson, I-Ling Liu, Cain Coleman Jr., and Carlo Antonio Villanueva of Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Company performing Analogy/Lance: Pretty aka the escape artist at The Joyce Theater. Photo by Yi-Chun Wu.
Cain Coleman, Jr. immediately seizes our focus with his first hip-swinging sashay towards the audience, his long, sculpted body as pretty as the young Jones.’ Yet Talli Jackson enjoys a tender spooning duet with Carlo Antonio Villanueva, who dances the final solo with a long silver pole, his cross to bear, his identity.
After a proliferation of digital biographies of master choreographers such as José Limón, Lester Horton, Alvin Ailey, it is satisfying to see the life of a dancer whose artistry was waylaid by common pitfalls, staged by Jones, already famous within the dance world as a storyteller. Rarely the most striking element, Jones' movement remains the essence, integral to all the questions posed, the projections, costume changes, lighting, text and music. The score is often brilliant, especially the recurring canon Joan, come kiss me now composed by Thomas Ravenscroft (1592-1633) which makes a brilliant comeback.