Category Archives: Uncategorized

04 Aug

Bill’s Blog: Now!

NYLA-189

This is part of a series of monthly blog posts–penned by Bill T. Jones–designed to provide further insight into his creative process, inspirations and more.

 

 

 

While everything changes, everything remains the same as well…
-Aristotle

As I entered the lobby of New York Live Arts on a recent hot July afternoon, I observed for the second time in a week a group of young people in animated conversation much like the one I had observed the day before. In the midst of this group was the Emmy-nominated actress, Uzo Aduba, known for her role as Suzanne “Crazy Eyes” Warren in the Netflix original television series Orange Is the New Black (2013–present). Uzo and I have been acquainted since I choreographed her in Will Power’s The Seven at New York Theater Workshop some years ago. Uzo enthusiastically introduced me to two of the young actors- Caleb Grandoit and Charlie Jackson, who had just participated in a master class she had led on the Live Arts’ stage for Opening Act’s yearly workshop.

Everyone was quite excited by a work Caleb had just shown that, in his words, chronicled the journey from slavery through the Civil Rights movement to our present moment of protest around issues of police brutality and racism.

At one point I asked Caleb if he was saying in his piece that things had changed and he answered that no, he didn’t think things were that different…

His answer was so stark that I do hope that we have a further opportunity to delve into what is meant by “things have not changed!”

BillUzoKids
Caleb Grandoit, myself, Uzo Aduba and Charlie Jackson

 

Cobble Hill Opening Movement from Opening Act NY on Vimeo.

The above encounter came in the wake of having just returned from the American Dance Festival (ADF) in Durham, NC, where, as always, questions of tradition, innovation and creativity are stirred up.

Now… Now, Now, Now, Now! If you calm down you will find that all the work and details are in your body. Replace the mental chatter with something else.

Sometimes, I just say ‘Now’ to give myself something else to do so as not to give in to anxiety. Calm down and do the most with what you have!
- Angie Hauser* teaching Intermediate Technique Class –ADF July2015

Now? Rather than fixating on Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Dance Company’s performance at the Durham Performing Arts Center that night, or allowing the paralysis of memory with all its ghosts and long ago events to shut out the present, I decided to go where the new dancers were. So I dropped into Angie Hauser’s intermediate technique class. The class spent the first 40 minutes on the floor. The participants were instructed to roll across the floor “as if each cell in your body was oriented down into the floor. Allow your body to be totally splayed as if growing tentacles for suction, pulling and pushing as one hungry body part is replaced by another fighting inertia.” The exercise encouraged a deeply inner-focused exploration.

This first sortie across the floor was belly down. They were then told to start another on their backs. “Everything is engaged!” Angie said as the class took on the aspect of one of those military training exercises designed to crawl under barbed wire.

“Figure it out as you go!”

The next traverse of the room started in a crouched sitting position. Angie demonstrated expertly one foot pushing along the floor in the desired direction as the entire body stayed engaged, roiling tentacle-like, clinging, repulsing. Each dancer was encouraged to evolve from the crouch to the back to the belly before returning to the opening position.

The accompanist, Adam Crawley, used a laptop to generate a heavy, beat-driven atmospheric cacophony that seemed, at first, at odds with the inner focus demanded by Angie, but perhaps actually encouraged it. Does this generation, constantly assaulted by sounds, images and stimulation, find its “still-point” in this way?

At this point Angie was saying something to the effect, “Getting from your knee to your soft belly is your problem to solve. Practice it over and over. Sometimes a pointed foot gets in the way of what you’re trying to do. Interrogate the use of your foot. Explore the palate of your feet. What does the moment call for?”

Now!

Angie’s style of teaching would not have been alien to those of us at the American Dance Asylum under the leadership of Lois Welk or Jill Becker. The American Dance Asylum was a collective of dancers and choreographers (aspiring!) that Arnie Zane and I were members of in Binghamton, NY, back in the 1970s. Some of us would sometimes parody “traditional” technical training that relied on existing forms (ballet, jazz, Graham, etc.). We adopted an attitude that resulted in a practice that insisted that technique is anything one does every day that provides one with the skill needed to perform one’s work. If your work demanded that you pick your nose, you should pick your nose every day and investigate nose picking as a practice!

Watching this class, which asked young dancers to go inside themselves first and to approach training as a highly internal and individualistic pursuit, I asked the question, “does the work performed inform the training or is it the opposite?” I don’t know who the young dancers were, so I am going out on a limb here, suggesting, “These are the children of an individuated, democratic, non-hierarchical ethos in pursuit of… What?”

We hold these truths…

Each era has its own set of assumptions, values and expectations that its “innovators” subscribe to. What is the art that comes from this era’s perceived truths? I recall with pleasure and mild uneasiness hearing legendary director of ADF, Charles Reinhart, say in an interview that of an era much besotted with Eastern philosophy, “There is too much Tai-chi onstage these days!”

One of our goals at New York Live Arts is to identify the most potent expressions and give them a platform.

Curiously enough, when Angie’s class stood up following its long floor session, it began a series of standing exercises: pliés, tendus, legs, feet, spine; exercises that would not have been alien to Doris Humphrey, Jose Limon or a young Merce Cunningham. Was this a choice of the teacher or was it a pragmatic requirement of the Festival that the young dancers should have the widest exposure, offering the best preparation for the “brave new world” and its burgeoning choreographing population in search of something deep, resonant and durable?

Tradition?

Angie-Hauser-Class-PhotoAngie Hauser with Chris Aiken at Bates Dance Festival 2014. Photo by Arthur Fink.

Now/Tradition

The next afternoon at ADF, I dropped in on an exciting panel entitled “Dancing on the African Continent”. The panelists were Gregory Maqoma (South African choreographer), Ivy Birch (moderator), Chuck Davis (Choreographer, founder of Dance Africa whom this year’s ADF was dedicated to), DD Kodolakina (dance critic from Togo). It was a lively, amicable exchange – warm and moving for several reasons.

Certain moments stand out:

  • Chuck Davis, irrepressible as always, when making his framing comments commanded us all to our feet to find “the pulse, the rhythm” exhorting us to chant “Dancers united will bring peace to the world!”
  • French speaking DD shared through his translator that he feels a bit isolated, as he is one of a handful of professional dance-writers working on the continent. He went on to say that he relished being at ADF as he could see many forms of dance there as opposed to the steady diet of French choreographers dominating the dance world in his country.
  • However, it was Gregory Maqoma’s comments and the ensuing discussion around the notion of tradition that resonates most as I look back at the event. Gregory told us that because dance was such a part of his world growing up in South Africa it was barely understood as a profession! Growing up near a hostel for migrant workers from across Southern Africa, he was thrilled to see their display of traditional dances.
    Gregory declared that he uses tradition to aggressively reframe and reference questions of power, history, identity and the future – all questions relevant to his countrymen. His ultimate purpose, however, is to bring joy!
  • DD Kodolakina responded that Africa’s creators are questioning themselves about the future and the now. Dance in Africa is no longer traditional. He feels that African creators are preoccupied with getting their work “out of Africa” (in several senses of the word, I believe…). He feels they must, as a result, evolve, lest the very traditions we were discussing die.

Now!

And then there was Bjorn’s and my first visit to Fire Island. “Your first time?!!!” People said with disbelief. “How is that possible?” I had never given it much thought, but I suppose it was because my identification with Gay culture has always been a wary one. I was of the belief that one should be suspicious of any tradition that came with prescribed rituals and geography. Arnie Zane and I declared we were not interested in living in any “ghetto” be it religious, racial, sexual or artistic.

Following the crush of passengers disembarking the ferry at The Pines, I was bombarded with feelings and questions. Why was I so filled with excitement and anticipation? Was it the hoards of buff, shirtless gods and their admirers, the beauty of the place, the promise of unbridled pleasure, of security, of inclusion?

It could have been simply that here was an institution, a tradition, that was built on the need for safe-haven and that I was coming “home” just as wider acceptance of “expanded sexualities and genders” could be making it all irrelevant…

Dimitri_Jeremy_FireIsland

You like movies: Check Finding Vivian Maier on Showtime!

*Angie Hauser is a Bessie award winning dancer and choreographer. Her dancing life is marked by two long-time collaborations – she has created dances with Bebe Miller since 2000 and with Chris Aiken since 2003.  These collaborations have yielded years of making, performing, and thinking about dance with a family of brilliant dancers, musicians, writers and artists. Hauser is deeply influenced by Miller and Aiken, as well as other collaborators, who currently include Jennifer Nugent, Darrell Jones, Paul Matteson, Omar Carrum and Claudia Lavista and musician Mike Vargas.  She is an Assistant Professor at Smith College.

 

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31 Jul

Announcing Live Core!

The Associate Artist Program is now Live Core. Live Core is a creative incubator, network, and platform for artists to elevate and propel their ideas forward. Utilizing the resources of New York Live Arts, Live Core empowers artists to connect with larger audiences, raise funds to support their work, and engage with industry professionals and other Live Core artists to bolster their professional and artistic development. Putting creativity front and center, Live Core artists enliven the ecology of performance in New York City and beyond.

We are maintaining features like low 6% processing fee for fiscally sponsored donations and a range of discounts from tickets to New York Live Arts season performances, workshops and even advertising within our programs we are enhancing the program with a series of professional development workshops and community events plus access to liability insurance. For a full list of benefits click here.

To join Live Core click here or contact Rakia Seaborn at rseaborn@newyorklivearts.org

Be on the lookout as we announce a robust season of in-house professional development workshops and opportunities to meaningfully engage with the Live Core community.

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08 Jun

Bill’s Blog: The Forgotten Creek?

NYLA-189

This is part of a series of monthly blog posts–penned by Bill T. Jones–designed to provide further insight into his creative process, inspirations and more.

 

 

 

Hello,

I’m late with this entry. I intend to try shorter intervals in the future!

As I promised last time, I will be reporting on important developments at NY Live Arts in this blog, make a couple of invitations and try to describe how the phenomena of memory has persisted over these past springtime weeks.

Dora Amelan

Photo: Dora Amelan

“The sun has a rendezvous with the moon
But the moon isn’t there and the sun awaits.
Here under the sky, often we
Must do the same.
The moon is here, the moon is here
The moon is here, but the sun doesn’t see her.
To find her the night is needed
The night is needed, but the ever-shining sun doesn’t know it.”

(more…)

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12 May

Live Arts + RocketHub = Blast Off!

Screen shot 2015-05-12 at 5.11.55 PM

New York Live Arts’ Associate Artist program has teamed up with crowd source funding platform RocketHub. This means people who contribute to a fiscally sponsored artist’s campaign get the kudos of being a supporter plus the benefit of a tax-deductible donation. Although Live Arts has offered this perk to Associate Artists since 2014, the first campaign wasn’t launched until recently.

In April, fiscally sponsored dance/theater artist Yehuda Hyman smashed his first crowd source funding campaign, exceeding his goal amount by 40%. The RocketHub campaign target was $5,500 in 30 days towards performances of The Mar Vista at the 14th Street Y in June 2015, and they raised $7,723. (more…)

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21 Oct

2014 New York Dance and Performance Bessie Awards

Big congratulations to all of the 2014 New York Dance and Performance “Bessie” Award recipients! Special congratulations to John Jasperse for winning Outstanding Production for his piece Within between, Stuart Singer for winning Outstanding Performance in John Jasperse’s Within between and Rebecca Serrell-Cyr for winning Outstanding Performance in Donna Uchizono’s Fire Underground. Read the New York Times Review of the Bessies.

Rebecca Serrell-Cyr in Donna Uchizono's "Fire Underground" - Photo by Ian Douglas

Rebecca Serrell-Cyr in Donna Uchizono’s Fire Underground. Photo by Ian Douglas.

Stuart Singer in John Jasperse's "Within between" - Photo by Ian Douglas

Stuart Singer in John Jasperse’s Within between. Photo by Ian Douglas.

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25 Sep

Context Notes: Ivana Müller

Ivana Müller’s Irregular Embraces:
On touching the transparent, the banal, the common, the opaque
By Jess Barbagallo

“Of tedium, as if the irregular monotony of life weren’t enough, so that on top of that I needed the obligatory monotony of a definite feeling.”
-Fernando Pessoa, The Book of Disquiet

i.

First, a ticking can be heard. Not unlike a sound effect one could associate with a photo booth camera timed to shoot, or more ominously, a bomb. Eleven ticks. She begins, a disembodied voice clearing its throat, winsome:

I will take this opportunity to stage myself. I will do it as an answer to a commission that a festival gave me some months ago. Robert, the festival’s artistic director, asked if I could make a sixty minute solo in English in which I would have to be physically present onstage. I would like to take this opportunity to tell you that after thinking about it for some time, I decided to accept the commission.

She pauses. Her body enters.

And by this to put myself in a position that could have some serious consequences for my future life.

If there was ever a rhythm to transparency, Ivana Müller has discovered a way to keep it. And if it was ever a secret, poetic logic dictates that she would tell.

I transcribed these opening lines from 60 Minutes of Opportunism, a solo Ivana Müller made in 2010, because they touch me, and I don’t know why. An impish-looking woman (quick mental shorthand compares her to Björk, her presence triggers the phrase “elphin secrets”) walks to the center of a black box wearing a daypack – her word, daypack – and a plain plaid shirt. A body without a voice, her abjection appears cheerful – how odd – and her premise, predicated on the principle of unwavering compliance, clear: Ask and ye shall receive. Or, with a bit of leaking pride, I followed the shit out of these directions.

Her methodical honesty, evident across a broad range of performative gestures, is the kind of generative and structuring force that comes out from behind the piece to give itself up, and, of course, steals the show. In the instance of 60 Minutes … Inner Monologue plays the hijacker, a spectral voice that keeps spilling Müller’s guts. Telling us that she has not performed since 2002. That she, the choreographer, is more accustomed to sitting where we sit. As she smokes a cigarette, telling us she has quit smoking. Saying she will dance and making us imagine instead. But the proceedings are full of pleasure, for our imagination makes her smile. She takes the ghost of her own voice and runs with spectral suggestion. She puts a black sheet over her body and is joined by a chorus of anonymous bodies in black sheets. Goofy ghosts.

So this is not a solo.

So she does not “dance.”

iii.

But she does choreograph. Following the dictum of compliance, her pieces become assignments in the hands of the most earnest student, the one who has discovered that, when treated as serious games, rules and restrictions can elicit serious fun. That student is probably, also, a smartass. Precepts of play appear to me as a core element of Müller’s practice, and she employs them again and again across a diverse array of works. Finally Together On Time, a performative dialogue staged in 2011 with collaborator Bojana Kunst, explores the trials and travails of collaborating in virtual times; we receive a very funny comedy of errors as the women share a script-in-hand account that could be described as a litany of happy failures, culminating in one more as Müller gets beamed in, via video projection, to a performance that is, in itself, a rumination on missed opportunities. (And the aesthetics – so gratifying! Müller’s form framed by a white projection screen and Kunst live against a stage black, the symmetry evokes all manner of sliding doors possibilities. When they pause or err in this technologically mediated realm, the audience is made privy to still image associations and possibilities, as performance veneers are chipped away to reveal buoyant vulnerabilities reminiscent of a Rineke Djikstra album.)

iv.

Then there’s In Common (2012), a game for ten player-performers who endlessly divide themselves into various tribes according to self-proclaimed “statuses” of material ownership, skill and life experience. Competitions without reward structure the piece as participants “race” to a finish line demarcated by a long piece of tape stretched across the downstage of a black box floor, proclaiming titles of distinction to advance their positions in space. It’s a who’s who of inanities that could as easily be overheard at a dinner party’s pissing contest. But to be fair, the piece does more than critique the alleged “inherent” absurdities of capitalism and bourgeois classification. Müller directs our attention toward the complex joys of naming and following, the imperfection of political systems as the meat of culture rather than exclusively their ugly gristle.

v.

In these recent creations, Partituur and We Are Still Watching, co-commissioned by FIAF’s Crossing the Line Festival, Müller amplifies the stakes of philosophical inquiry by offering frameworks that completely embed “audiences” in the completion of the work, casting pedestrian children and adults as cold-readers in interactive games, housed within the confines of the traditional theater space. Müller provides the text, but her reconfigured spectators bring the show; if responsibility were an object to be kept aloft, each participant bears the weight of her own experience.

These conceptual “diversions” are multi-faceted, open-ended. They simultaneously possess the ability to function as reusable energy basins, and to catalyze an increased awareness of the body’s delicious wonderment in states of waiting. And certainly, from this distance, they have the potential to generate metaphors – practical, pedagogical and independently lovely. In the generosity of the negative, quiet and unknown space holding a base text, we might discover other texts yet to be written, performances and connections to be made.

I was reminded of this simple phenomena – call it the incomplete – watching footage from Partituur (version francaise). Part voyeur, part anthropologist – it is inescapable, to become a part – I see a group of children and a few adults wearing headphones in a room with a red floor, a white tape circle and more white lines to demarcate mysteriously arbitrary zones. The participants are unsure, but attentive. A voice begins to prompt them and soon enough their toes are at the tape. They make shapes, they follow directions, they listen. The bulk of the action is interstitial. And what to make of this now … a minor catalogue of fidgets, adjustments, spasms, rests. Sometimes several children will run in laughter, then there are those who stand still. I guess it’s a complex of uneven engagements. Their minds are opaque to me. When I sink into a thinking deeply, I see these figures. They are actually wells.

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16 Sep

THE INSIDER GUIDE TO CONTEMPORARY PERFORMANCE (abridged)

You’ve thoroughly read the cultural previews published by The New York Times, New York Magazine, and Time Out, and snapped up tickets for all of the downtown shows before they sell out. But is your vocab up to snuff? In preparation for the fall performance blitz, brush up on the necessary lingo with our handy cheat sheet to guarantee (even a neophyte) instant insider status:

1. Modern dance: developed in the early 1900s as a rebellion against ballet (Isadora Duncan, Martha Graham), and rebelled against in turn–fifty years later–by the post-modernists.

2. Post-modern: a panacea label for all work that is unconventional, regardless of its origin. Common traits: all of the terms below. For dance and performance generally, the hallmark of the evolution of post-modernism was the Judson Dance Theatre in the 1960s-70s.

3. Pedestrian movement: every day, functional actions, such as walking, running, lying down, crawling, or sitting. Also known as “task-oriented movement”. [Litmus test: could a non-trained person do this in the living room?]

4. Performance art: combines aspects of theater, dance, music, poetry, political or social activism and visual art (think Fluxus or Marina Abramovic). Aims to be provocative and frequently structured as a performance installation (see below). Really came into being during the 1960s.

5. Performance installation: crossover into the visual arts world, usually takes place someplace other than a traditional theater, and lasts for many hours. Inexplicably involves nudity 95% of the time.

6. Experimental: challenging the status quo. Useful in describing any performance that revels in shock-value or lacks recognizable elements or artistic cohesion (note: no relation to the orderly scientific process learned in high school science).

7. Contemporary: typically a mash-up of classical and modern, with a few post-modern flourishes. Overused by ballet companies and European groups in an effort to distance themselves from “classical”.

8. Fourth wall: the invisible barrier between stage and audience that allows performers to pretend the audience doesn’t exist. “Breaking the fourth wall” is a trope in post-modern performance, used with varying degrees of success.

9. Non-narrative: no clear story, or at least not one you can follow.

10. Multi-disciplinary: a blanket term for performances that include video, visual art, or interactive technology along with dance or theater. Often misused or aspirational.

11. Performative: the act of performing. The genius of this term is that any action can be declared “performative,” simply by naming it as such, regardless of setting. A term beloved by the post-modern crowd.  [Yes, drinking coffee can be performative as long as you call it that.]

12. Movement score: a loose structure for improvisational movement, guided by specific images or ideas that are unlikely to be apparent to the audience.

13. Intention: the idea or motivation behind an action. Crucial in transforming a pedestrian action into a performative one (kind of like taking communion).

14. Kinesthetic: focused on the body and physical movement. Redundant when used to describe dance for obvious reasons, but it sounds fancy.

15. Innovative:  new ideas; original or creative. A positive sounding catch-all for anything you don’t understand. What was once “avant-garde” morphed into “cutting-edge,” and is now trumpeted as “innovative.”

Did we miss a vocab word? Tell us in the comments section.

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18 Aug

SELL IT!

Dancers possess beauty and strength, qualities luxury retailers are eager to affiliate with their products.

High end watch maker Movado has a history of using artists to promote their brand (take a peek at this ad from 1962!), with ballet star Mikhail Baryshnikov as a “Movado Ambassador” in the 2000s.

Last year, Lexus worked with ballerina Tamara Rojo on a luxury car commercial, harnessing the classic associations of grace and power.

Modern dance brings a sense of creativity and individuality to the mix, which Pilobolus Dance Theatre has leveraged with an entire “creative services” division that’s done commercials for a number of global giants, from Bloomingdale’s to Hyundai.

In a similar vein, Puma’s 2008 campaign with the Bill T.  Jones/Arnie Zane Company made an exuberant pitch for upscale sport shoes. [Not surprisingly, creativity took a back seat to consistency when it came to filming the commercial: Associate Artistic Director Janet Wong remembers the multi-day shoot, edited into a tight 30 second ad, requiring “many, many, many, many takes” from different angles.]

Fashion label Rag & Bone is the latest to tap the heady potential of dance, with a video for its 2014 fall/winter line featuring choreographer and dancer Kyle Abraham. Unlike most ads that focus on the athletic side of dance (jump! kick! turn!–cue ABT ballerina Misty Copeland in Under Armor’s new campaign), Rag & Bones’ atmospheric montage cuts between the dancers and the Brooklyn cityscape for a softer sell.

 

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21 Jul

THE BESSIE AWARDS ANNOUNCE 2013-2014 NOMINEES

The 30th Annual Bessie Awards nominees were announced last week, and several New York Live Arts productions from the past season got a nod.

Outstanding Production

John Jasperse – Within Between

Outstanding Revival

Donna Uchizono - State of Heads

Outstanding performer

Julia Hausermann in Disabled Theater by Jerome Bel and Theater HORA

Rebecca Serrell-Cyr in Fire Underground by Donna Uchizono

Stuart Singer in Within Between by John Jasperse

Outstanding Visual Design

Thomas Dunn for New Work for the Desert by Beth Gill

The 2014 Outstanding Emerging Choreographer Award was presented at the press conference to two female choreographers: Jen Rosenblit (2009 Fresh Tracks Artist, 2011 Studio Series Artist, 2012 mainstage artist) was recognized for a Natural dance, performed at The Kitchen, for “a confident voice investigating the fluidity of identity, the pulse of time, and the nature of what it is to dance;” Jessica Lang was recognized for the elegant works created for her newly formed company of dancers at the Joyce Theater in her transition from freelance choreographer to artistic director.

The 30th Annual Bessie Awards will be held Monday, October 20, 2014 at 8:00 p.m. at the Apollo Theater in New York City.

Read about all the nominees>

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01 May

New York Live Arts 2014 Gala

Last Tuesday, April 22 we held our 2014 Gala at the Madrin Oriental in New York City. The evening featured performances by Clare Danes and Bill T. Jones, the Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Dance Company and more.

 

Read more about the Gala, the guests, their outfits and Claire Danes Red Carpet Fashion Award Nomination at the links below

New York Magazine
Getty Images
Just Jared
Red Carpet Fashion Awards
Gossip Center

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