Sunday, October 07, 2001

Jones keeps up with world through dance company

By Carol Norris
Enquirer contributor

        Nearly 20 years ago the Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Dance Company was the new kid on the block in New York's crowded modern dance community. The group's pieces were edgy and unpredictable — performers fresh and unknown. Today, most in the dance world know of the excitement that follows this established company wherever it performs. In artistic terms, it has arrived.

    • What: Contemporary Dance Theater presents Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Dance Co.
    • When: 8:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday.     • Where: Jarson-Kaplan Theater, Aronoff Center for the Arts, 650 Walnut St., downtown.
    • Tickets: $17 and $20; $12 students and seniors at the Aronoff and Music Hall box offices, Ticketmaster locations, 241-7469 or
   Read the review: Saturday on Cincinnati.Com, keyword: dance, and Sunday in Tempo.
        Cincinnati's Contemporary Dance Theater plays host to Jones/Zane Friday and Saturday at the Aronoff Center's Jarson-Kaplan Theater. Mr. Jones talked about the company's growth recently by phone.

        Question: Early on, you were struggling to get established in the modern dance community, to have other artists take you seriously. Now you're respected worldwide. How is it to be part of the establishment?

        Answer: If you survive, you will become one of the big guys, but you face many of the same problems — funding, instability, health insurance for your dancers. Now we're working to become a cultural institution with a permanent home.

        Q: How are you going about this?

        A: Working with my rehearsal director, Janet Wong, has revolutionized the way we work. It involves videotaping my improvisations. She analyzes my movement styles and incorporates them into classes. We look at what is there and codify it so it can be taught to the company.

        Q: What drives you?

A: When Arnie (Zane) died in 1988, I decided to keep his name as a memorial to him — not for emotional reasons but for political ones. This was our product, our child. This is a living memorial to Arnie.

        Q: You last performed in Cincinnati 10 years ago. What's changed with the company since then?

        A: I'm less concerned with who is dancing now than how they dance. We've always been diverse in body types — all shapes and sizes and ethnic backgrounds. Early on there was pop culture, high culture, literature and film thrown together. Now I go deeper into motivation. I'm in pursuit of some meaningful beauty originating in movement.

        Q: You create all the dances. What are you after?

        A: I'm an artist trying to talk about complexity — what it means to live in this country. It can be confusing and complicated to be an American. I try to feel the spirit moving — the enduring quality of dance.

        Q: Is there a Jones technique?

        A: It's not a technique but a style and a willingness to try anything. When you see me dancing you'll understand the Jones style. Sometimes I invite the audience to experience the music through the dancers' bodies (in a way) that transcends acting out. Other times it's for the eyes and I let the songs take on a secondary meaning.

        Q: And what about the man behind the style?

        A: You'll have to read my book Last Night on Earth (Pantheon Books; 1995). It's the story of my life.

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