T. Jones/Arnie Zane Dance Company
The Phantom Project
September 19, 2003
-- The Kitchen
“We liked old things,” Bill T. Jones tells us as he opens last Friday's
performance of The Phantom Project at the “new” Kitchen, as opposed
to the “old” Kitchen, where Jones and partner Arnie Zane debuted their
work in New York City twenty years ago. By way of celebrating the company's
20th anniversary, Jones has re-staged several of the works the pair created
With a few old photos of Jones and Zane, sporting old hats from Amsterdam,
and a few anecdotes from Jones about their life in these old hats, we
are primed for a trip back in time with our friendly, familiar tour guide
and looking forward to a more enlightened viewing of the works that helped
make him so trustworthy in the first place.
Jones has told us many stories over the years. This is the story of the
Jones and Zane of another time. It is self-reflective: the story
of how their company was born, told by their company as it is now. The
Phantom Project represents their history and their present, but it
is also part of ours – the dance community's. While many were present
to see these events take place twenty years ago, many of us were not,
most especially those dancers working today, including some in Jones'
own company. At best, these works may have been seen on video and studied
in a college course, but what an interesting way this is to help us understand
how we got to where we are.
Past and present converge quite literally in "Valley Cottage."
The back wall is split with two identical images of Jones performing the
dance in 1980. A member of the company joins each image of Jones onstage,
performing the same choreography. All versions are true. If two dancers
who perform well together are said to have chemistry, how do you describe
the same phenomenon when one dancer is two-dimensional and performing
23 years ago? Whatever it is, it takes place during Zane's role in the
duet, as Asli Bulbul performs it live.
Repetition as a choreographic device figures prominently in the rest of
this concert. Sometimes it becomes tedious, but for the most part, it
engages the audience in the material. Its dominance in these works is
also quite telling of Jones's and Zane's thought processes back then and
what sort of larger trends they were setting.
"Duet x 2" is danced admirably, first by Denis Boroditski and
Malcolm Low, then Boroditski and Germaul Yusef Barnes. In this way, repetition
becomes a sociological experiment: how different the same choreography
looks when one partner is replaced by another. Although physically gratifying
both times, the piece moves more mechanically with the first pairing than
the second. Boroditski and Barnes sense each other's nuances and understand
the space they share more intimately; when they are together, they are
together and when they are apart, they are together.
Repetition in the form of accumulation appears also in "Continuous
Replay (A Portrait)." Known to Jones and Zane as" Hand Dance"
when Zane made it in 1977, the choreography consists of forty hand and
arm gestures added to the series one at a time as the dancer travels the
periphery of the space. Ayo Janeen Jackson's punctured, geometric execution
of these phrases is impeccable, the rhythmic repetition comforting in
a ritualistic sort of way. Shaneeka Harrell's variations on the phrases
behind her keep the orbit fresh.
1980‘s "Blauvelt Mountain (A Fiction)" feels like “a day in
the life of.” What we now know about the partnership of Jones and Zane,
extrapolated from stories, photographs, dance, and a poem of Zane's read
by Jones, culminates in this piece. As Catherine Cabeen and Leah Cox dance
it, this work presents us with several co-existing truths. Again, repetition
is at work on a very large scale. One cycle of the material takes the
audience and the dancers through myriad situations and emotions; each
time we return, those results are multiplied. In seeing the same thing
repeatedly, the eye locks in to certain landmarks and we can notice how
these scenes have shifted with the passing of time, becoming more comfortable
or more charged. Whispering turns from a tense situation between audience
and performers to a more inclusive and casual affair. Once we become familiar
with the routine and see what they're up to, the secret isn't so secretive
The choreography, while at once depicting the universality of human relationships,
is also uniquely Jones/Zane. We can see the two of them or Cox and Cabeen
or the phantoms of our own relationships dancing onstage. But the intimate
gestures and unusual cadence of the choreographers pervade, so much so
that it is easy to deduce which performer has assumed which role.
The most important function of repetition in The Phantom Project is
as tribute and celebration. After 20 years of generous contributions to
the art form and its community, the Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Dance Company
is fully entitled to a little reminiscing and re-creating. It's a pleasure
to be able to share in that, to reciprocate the generosity and rediscover
the partnership that was, and still is in many ways, Bill T. Jones and
Edited by Holly Messitt
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