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Bill T Jones in "The Breathing Show"
Sadler's Wells, London, November 12, 1999

by Stuart Sweeney

This was a one night performance by Mr Jones of his solo show, looking back over his life and his dance. We last saw Bill T Jones/Arnie Zane & Company in London 2 years ago performing 'We set out early....visibility was poor.' My memory of the work was of superb dancers of a variety of shapes and sizes and some intriguing choreography.

This show is a combination of dance, monologue, film and one or two short happenings. It starts quite slowly with Jones performing to Schubert songs, but perks up considerably when he sings 'The Old Grey Goose is Dead', while dancing at the same time. Jones shows us how he gets some of his found vocabulary - one pose is a Greek statue, another a Pittsburgh Steelers play etc. But he also throws in some elegant attitudes and entrechats. Given that he was winning awards as long ago as 1979, he remains an accomplished dancer in great condition.

Towards the end of the show and for an encore, Jones dances to two songs by Blossom Dearie. The feathery, fluent style of Ms Dearie provides a fine framework for Jones' improvisations and I enjoyed this part greatly.

The autobiographical part of the show works very well and is a series of snapshots from his life, the lives of members of his family and of the love of his life Arnie Zane. It is delicately done and in a few quick brush strokes, Jones gives us insights into his experience and the drivers in his life. Given the depth of his love for Arnie Zane, it is an artistic achievement of no small magnitude that the show is never sentimental and does not dwell on this relationship. My companion was almost in tears when she realised that the beautiful metal sculpture that we see at the start and end of the show was a representaion of the magnolia tree around which Zane's ashes were scatterred.

To give himself a breather, we see two filmed interludes. Firstly an amazing computer graphics display, 'Ghostcatching' with a stylised white outline of Jones against a black background. Secondly some long set-ups of Jones' beloved garden, where the ashes of his lover are scatterred. Throughout, the set designs are simple, light and gorgeous.

The show tries to give us some sense of what it is like to be the charming, intelligent and gifted Mr Jones and it achieves this successfully and with much elegance.

 

Please join a discussion of this performance in our forum.

Edited by Azlan Ezaddin.


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