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Q & A / BILL T. JONES

Moved to Seek a Connection

May 06, 1998|JENNIFER FISHER | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

A: Well, for one thing, I've been working with my brilliant rehearsal director Janet Wong, who has helped codify my movement. She can learn every idiosyncratic isolation that I do, and set all of my improvisations. We sit with tapes and decide which sections work, and she goes off and learns them, then teaches them to me and to the company. It creates quite a rich, eclectic vocabulary. She has revolutionized the way I make movement and the way that it comes into the company.

I'm very proud of the way it works. It used to dismay me not to have a codified vocabulary, like Balanchine had and Martha Graham had. There's power and expediency in that. When you start out as I did, literally making it up, suddenly you're trying to find a shared language.

What is our common language? I'm trying to discover that with this process.

I start out alone, approaching the music purely as rhythm and texture. I work with Janet, then the company comes into it, and I respond to their personalities and shapes. . . . I choose and edit, but I also listen and see what people naturally give back. All of this feeds into a stew--it becomes what "we" are--there's the "we" word again. I always strive to believe in the "we," not the "they," "us," "I" or "you." And that's a hard one in the 20th century, I think, because so much has been balkanized and atomized and deconstructed.

*

Q: Are explanations important to you? Is there something you want the audience to know before seeing the work?

A: That's difficult to say, because I don't know who they are. I'm inviting them to come and share with me something I find beautiful. And that act of witnessing, looking, contemplation is an act of communion that closes a gap between us. I know it does it for me when I look at art, art that's centuries old. I suddenly forget the difference; time is irrelevant. Then I'm in touch with an impulse--spiritual, intellectual, what have you. Which is really all we have. I think art is there to keep us agile--not that we agree with it, not that it's always understood, but we have to keep moving to deal with it.

* Bill T. Jones / Arnie Zane Dance Company, "We Set Out Early . . . Visibility Was Poor," 8 p.m., Friday and Saturday, Royce Hall, UCLA, $16-$40, (310) 825-2101.

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