Moving Visions

Now Playing as Part of Doc NYC "Can You Bring It: Bill T. Jones and D-Man in the Waters" Directed by Tom Hurwitz and Rosalynde LeBlanc

Now Playing as Part of Doc NYC  "Can You Bring It: Bill T. Jones and D-Man in the Waters"  Directed by Tom Hurwitz and Rosalynde LeBlanc
Christine Jowers/Follow @cmmjowers on Instagram

By Christine Jowers/Follow @cmmjowers on Instagram
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Published on November 14, 2020
Photo: Tom Hurwitz

Heidi Latsky

Moving Visions Editor, Heidi Latsky
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Featuring The Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Company, produced and presented by New York Live Arts

Directors: Tom Hurwitz, ASC and Rosalynde LeBlanc // Producers: Rosalynde LeBlanc and Duana C. Butler

Executive Producer: Karen Dial // Director of Photography: Tom Hurwitz // Editor: Ann Collins

Watch It as Part of DOC NYC

Runs November 11-19, Get Your Tickets HERE

What Directors Tom Hurwitz, ASC and Rosalynde LeBlanc Say about 

Can You Bring It: Bill T. Jones and D-Man in the Waters

Headshots of Roz LeBlanc and Tom Hurwitz
Left:Rosalynde LeBlanc — Producer, Co-director // Right: Tom Hurwitz — Director of Photography, Co-director; photo from D-Man Documentary website

“While there are many films about the creative process of choreographers, there is no documentary that looks at one dance as a vision in itself, containing the personal, social, and political stories of its time, the time of the AIDS epidemic,” said Co-Director/Producer, Rosalynde LeBlanc. “Tom and I wanted this film to also transcend D-Man in the Waters, and show how art helps us make sense of challenging times. With the backdrop of our current global crises, the themes of love, loss, courage and resilience in this film resonate more than ever.”

“The moment Roz came to me with the idea for this film, I knew it had the power to become a strongly relevant and beautiful documentary,” said Co-Director/Director of Photography, Tom Hurwitz, ASC. “In order to evoke the effect of D-Man on those who danced it, we filmed it in a new way, giving the feeling of actually being inside it, along with the dancers.”

Republished from an earlier viewing of the film in 2018

IMPRESSIONS: Can You Bring It: Bill T. Jones and D-Man in the Waters, a work-in-progress by Rosalynde LeBlanc and Tom Hurwitz with editing by Ann Collins, was originally published on August 16, 2018. It was featured alongside Editor in Chief Christine Jowers' IMPRESSIONS of If the Dancer Dances, a film by Lise Friedman and Maia Wechsler with editing by Mary Manhardt about the members of the Stephen Petronio Company as they learn Merce Cunningham's RainForest (1968). Both films were presented by the 46th Annual Dance On Camera Festival. Read the original "If The Dancer Dances" & "Can You Bring It: Bill T. Jones and D-Man in the Waters" — Two Films Focus on Re-Creating Dance Masterpieces HERE.

Roz LeBlanc hopes her film collaboration with the brilliant cinematographer Tom HurwitzCan You Bring It: Bill T. Jones and D-Man in the Waters, will resonate with all populations, not just devotees of dance. When the project is completed in 2019 and featured on PBS (no doubt), she wants someone flipping channels to catch a glimpse and feel compelled to watch and re-watch. I predict she will get her wish and then some. Even in its incomplete form (my audience saw only two acts of three) the emotionally powerful story glues us to our chairs.

Centering around a 2016 re-creation of Bill T. Jones’ monumental D-Man in the Waters (1989), the documentary follows a company of young students at Loyola Marymount University struggling with the rigorous mental and physical demands of the choreography. “Think of yourselves as athletes,” their teacher/stager (also LeBlanc) reminds the somewhat worried group of fresh faces.

Bill T Jones addresses students at Loyola Marymount College
Can You Bring It: Bill T. Jones and D-Man in the Waters : Bill T. Jones meets the students; photo Tom Hurwitz

They giggle, they fall, they stress, they admirably plunge themselves into the experience. One young man, with no formal training other than a minimal exposure to hip hop, is cast in a central role, forcing LeBlanc to “give him some quick lessons in dance.” One has to admire the fearlessness of the students and their teacher.

 As affecting as the story of students is, it is merely one fascinating aspect of this this multi-layered documentary. Absorbing interviews with Bill T. Jones and the original members of the Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Company fill us in on what it was like to create and perform alongside the AIDS epidemic in the 1980s. Even decades later, the memories — gripping and vivid — feel genuinely present tense. There was concern among the group that Jones wouldn’t be able to continue working without Arnie Zane, his partner in life and art. Zane died of AIDS in 1988, the year before D-Man premiered. “Can he live through The Joyce season?” Jones wondered at the time.

Two couples in green run toward the wings
Can You Bring It: Bill T. Jones and D-Man in the Waters; photo Tom Hurwitz

Heidi Latsky recalls that half of her phone book died. Jones talks about starting the company with Zane in 1978 saying that they wanted “to create a company that looked like the world we wanted to live in.” Seán Curran describes his first years with this “world” as work being play and play being work, but “the community thing changed radically when it was about ‘how do we save ourselves?’”

The jubilant D-Man in the Waters with its game-like formations, ecstatic dives into floor and air, and supportive and joyous partnering relationships, was about survival. “Not dance for dances’ sake,” says Latsky. “It made sense out of a chaotic world. It was a way to go on.”

Loyola Marymount students raise their hands in the air
Can You Bring It: Bill T. Jones and D-Man in the Waters: Loyola Marymount students;  photo Tom Hurwitz

The Loyola students, born 10 years or so after D-Man premiered, can work on the steps, and gestures of the dance, but can they comprehend the reality of the era in which it was made? They admit (somewhat shockingly) AIDS is glossed over when it is discussed with them; the disease is something remote, unconnected, and separate from their world. “This won’t happen to me,” says one. How can they feel the urgency that drove the original company?

“Can you be moved?” Jones asks the students when he travels to Los Angeles to see his dance. He looks every young dancer in the eye, shakes each hand, gets every name, and learns what roles they will be dancing.  Coaching them, speaking about his experiences — one generation extending himself to another — Jones urges them to figure out what it is they will fight for. “Can you be bad M.F.ers? We need it. Bring It,” he charges.

Bill T Jones addresses the students sitting in front of him
Can You Bring It: Bill T. Jones and D-Man in the Waters : Bill T. Jones meets the students; photo Tom Hurwitz

Even in its rough-cut, in progress-version, Can You Bring It: Bill T. Jones and D-Man in the Waters is a feat of storytelling, skillfully weaving together the tale of the college students, the history of the original company, and magnificent footage of the present-day Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Company performing D-Man. The documentary fully embraces dance, while simultaneously transcending it. This is a piece about humanity, bravery, and hope.

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