WHAT: Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Company is looking for TWO HIGHLY SKILLED FEMALE-IDENTIFYING DANCERS WITH SOME EXPERIENCE IN ACTING AND SINGING. Tentative start date is May 7, 2018. This is approximately a 30-week salaried position with full health benefits.
WHEN: Auditions will be held on Monday, April 2, 2018 from 12:00 PM – 5:00 PM. Please hold Tuesday, April 3, 2018 for callbacks. Auditions are by appointment only. The date to submit applications will be opened on March 1, 2018. ANY APPLICATIONS SENT PRIOR TO MARCH 1, 2018 WILL NOT BE ACCEPTED.
New York Live Arts Studio
219 W 19th Street, New York, NY, 10011
WHO: The Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Company has performed worldwide in over 200 cities in 40 countries on every major continent. The Company’s repertory is widely varied in its subject matter, visual imagery and stylistic approach to movement, voice and stagecraft and includes musically-driven works as well as works using a variety of texts. The Company has been acknowledged for its intense collaborative method of creation that has included artists as diverse as Keith Haring, Cassandra Wilson, The Orion String Quartet, the Chamber Society of Lincoln Center, Fred Hersch, Jenny Holzer, Robert Longo, Julius Hemphill and Daniel Bernard Roumain, among others.
Artist Resources: a follow up to Open Spectrum-Creative Sustainability
Last week we discussed Creative Sustainability-How Do We Invest In Ourselves as Artists and Human Beings? at Open Spectrum. After the panel David Thomson and Kate Watson-Wallace of The Sustainability Project put together a list of resources.
If you missed the conversation, you can watch it via Facebook Live.
WHAT: Randjelovic/Stryker Resident Commissioned Artist RoseAnne Spradlin Auditions
RoseAnne Spradlin is looking for 3-4 dancers, male/female/other, to participate in the creation and performance of her newest, as-yet-untitled work. The new work will be developed in the year between Fall 2017 and Fall 2018 and will premier in Fall 2018 at New York Live Arts. Exact dates TBD, but will be announced this fall. *Please note* Performers who join the cast of the new work must sign a letter of intent to tour with the work in the first year after its premiere.
Also looking for one male performer to learn a role in RoseAnne’s work X, which premiered at the Joyce theatre in Sept 2016. Must be available to rehearse latter half of Dec ‘17 and approximately 20 hrs in Jan ‘18 with two shows at NYLA in Jan 12 & 13, 2018. Must be available for touring at least through Jan 2019. Re-casting Kayvon Pourazar’s role. The work can be viewed here.
WHEN: Auditions will be held on Wednesday, September 6 & Thursday, September 7, 2017 from 12PM – 4PM. Applicants must be available for both days of the audition.
TO SIGN UP FOR THE AUDITION:
Please e-mail your headshot and resume to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Auditions are by appointment only; the deadline to apply is Friday, September 1, 2017.
NO PHONE CALLS PLEASE
New York Live Arts Studio / 219 W. 19th Street, New York, NY 10011 / 3rd Floor
MORE: RoseAnne Spradlin develops her work through an extended choreographic process with dancers; the process may combine somatic explorations, work with improvisational scores, investigation of tasks, set movement phrases or sections and interactions between dancers, sets and objects. Spradlin’s work is generally considered physically demanding, and although she does not adhere to a particular technical approach, she is interested in pushing her work toward the “post-post-modern”*. Dancers seeking to be hired should enjoy taking risks and be willing to make an investment in their own experience as a participant in the work.
BIO: RoseAnne Spradlin has shown her work in many experimental venues in New York City and in London, Vienna, at ADF and other East and West Coast venues. She has taught in festivals and programs in Berlin, Vienna, London, Paris, Brussels and in Tinos, Greece. Spradlin received a BESSIE award for her choreography in 2003 and was named a Guggenheim Fellow in 2008. She received the three-year Lambent Fellowship 2006-2008 and an Artist Award from the Foundation for Contemporary Arts in 2007. Spradlin was awarded the U.S. Artist Ford Fellowship in Dance in 2015 and in 2017 was named the Randjelovic/Stryker Resident Commissioned Artist at New York Live Arts.
* There may be many ideas about what post-post modern dance is or what that term means. For me right now it mainly means less emphasis on well-known approaches of post-modernism and a willingness to break the rules of what’s allowed and what is valued in a dance. —RoseAnne
Bill’s Blog: July
Next month Analogy/Ambros: The Emigrant will be premiering in July at Dancers Workshop in Jackson Hole, Wyoming. It’s the third installment to the Analogy Trilogy as it is based on a novel unlike the other two which are autobiographical oral histories. Seabald himself—in a book called The Emergence of Memory – says that Ambros is actually a biographical character. In an interview, someone asked him, “Did you have an uncle Ambros?” And he has a way of wiggling vaguely about it. So we are led to believe that Ambros is based on some fact in his life—which makes the story even more remarkable. He’s not around to ask how much.
Photo credit: Andrew Jernigan
The first installment in the trilogy, was based on my mother-in-law, Dora Amelan, from an oral history that I just happened to do with her (soon to be 16-17 years ago) for her sons (my husband and his brother). I did it for them. But when I began to read The Emigrants and started trying to first put the quasi-novelistic character together—a German man born in 1880’s with my Jewish mother-in-law Dora Amelan born in 1920— I thought why not try to make a piece where I fold them both together? And I realized it was too rich and didn’t know how to do it.
So why don’t we separate them out?… Oh!
This should be three parts!
And why don’t we take the one that is actually closest right now—which is Dora who I see twice a year and speak to every week on the phone. Let’s start with her. And that’s how the first part became about Dora.
And what’s in the middle?
My nephew. It’s the most personal thing. When I started doing his oral histories—inspired by Dora’s—we thought he was going to die. It was a time for truth telling. Was he novelistic? No, but he and I bonded around the idea of creating a work that was quasi-fictitious. I’m making a work looking at him try to make a work. He’s making a work and not knowing anything about making anything based around a character he created psychologically called “PRETTY.” My nephew… really right to the heart of trying to be who I am in the world… Very diverse group of friends making art that is not in the mainstream really. The only thing we have in common really is—yes we are both gay—that we are blood relatives and both interested in the arts. Of course he had a kink in it—one all too familiar— he was a drug addict which led him down a certain path. When I hear the term now, “at risk kids,”—literally my adult life has been asking me to come in to tell kids, “It’s ok to be an artist”, as an alternative to a life in the streets.
Well as for my nephew, I’m his uncle. He was accepted to San Francisco School of Ballet, but still ended up having a life full of sexual predation and drug abuse. So this idea that art can save us… This uncle who has bought the whole thing of being an artist as a way of salvation… and he, who on the brink of death, found that and trying to build on it… who is most in touch with reality? The uncle or the nephew? So, as I have interviewed Dora and Lance, the company, in a way, is interviewing Ambros.
You may have read the New York Times feature last year. I started trying to tell stories and do abstract movement at the same time that I started to make art. I was in love with the abstract possibilities of movement, but was also really intrigued by the stories that my mother and father told in the context of being in upstate New York in a German-Italian community with nice working class white people for the most part and a handful of blacks. There was this whole load of information—a lot of it before I was born—that became family lore (and I suppose every family had it)—that had to compete with American television or LIFE Magazine or the Bible. And though these stories were real—my parent’s exploits, where they came from, their childhood or their memories of the south—they might as well have been myths in themselves. So when I started, using the abstraction of my body and immediacy and minding the stories that were available to me—in the way that my mother and father would mind the stories of their childhood to entertain us, scare us, or instruct us—those worlds came together.
I didn’t want to illustrate what I was saying so I had to find other systems. Those systems came from improvisation that I learned from Richard Bol, Lois Welk (thought leader at the American Dance Asylum, Binghamton, 1970’s), and what I might understand as system-making as Trisha Brown might understand it. Telling stories and moving was a way of answering many questions for me: Where do I fit in? – not only in the dance world, but in the contemporary art world.
(Speaking to myself) What is the confessional? You’re prone to the confessional, but how do you give shape to the confessional? And how do you position it? Is it a universal story you’re telling? Or is it hyper-personal with the potential to speak to all the hyper-personal stories your audience has? Are you a black preacher exhorting the congregation which is your audience to some hard truce about life through illustrations? Or are you a poet entertaining them with sound and fury? That’s what the story telling was in the beginning. Has it continued in that way?
The Lincoln piece, Fondly Do We Hope… Fervently Do We Pray, was an invitation to make a work for the 200th anniversary of the birth of our president, who just happened to be “the great emancipator”… or was he? And I could do anything I wanted. I wanted to tell his story. I wanted the “story book” man to be made three-dimensional and I wanted him to be built out of the imagination of contemporary people—many of them young enough to be my children. How do we get the historical man to meet the fantasies, attention, and inattention of my organization—which is a microcosm of the world.
Arnie Zane and I use to say, “The company is not the world that we live in, it is the world we would like to live in.” Contemporary dance—or the avant garde as I understood it—was not doing characters. It was actually demonstrating something. Dance was like a 3-dimensional sculpture time-based as way of directing a group of strangers. What we did. Where we did it. It was a way to talk about things close to my heart—like politics and power—but doing it through abstraction. When small people lifted big people— Arnie Zane (5’4) lifting Bill T. Jones (6’1). And there’s something about the sweat of grappling that plays through all the fears that my parents and the southerners had about such a nation: Who is swapping spit with whom? Who is sleeping with whom? Dance has always been—or it use to be—a metaphor away from sex. But let’s just mix it up. What if anybody could dance with anybody? And what if you didn’t have to be beautiful or a god/goddess to do it? Now have that reality going on next to something Bill is saying which is maybe a memory from his mother and father or some anecdote from his life. Now that has informed [Fondly Do We Hope… Fervently Do We Pray] and also Story/Time. Big time.
Story/Time was a very self-conscious imitation of John Cage dealing with the hated narrative form. I think it’s fair to say he was against narrative—he was an Irish man so he told stories very well, but he also the thought the world was too facaded with narrative. And why did something have to start here and end there? Why couldn’t it start in the middle and then go into the beginning and then the ending? Why couldn’t everything be by chance procedure? Or why couldn’t he make stories that are all over the map and then through chance procedure organize the progression of the stories with no glue or transitions in between? It’s a very radical exercise: anti-narration. It was a challenge to me [to write and collate] 180 short stories. The concision of language—being able to understand the whole story in one minute—and now through chance procedure organize them. That is the narration running next to what? A catalogue of 30 years of creating movement. Talk about deep water here. Just have faith that you’re going to have an audience interested in the puzzle—a patient audience that you don’t have to seduce with a climax. And they will be changing the channel every minute. That is how Story/Time changed from Everybody Works/All Beasts Count—the first solo I did in 1977.
First blog of 2017!
Welcome to my first blog of 2017! I hope to catch up on what’s happening at New York Live Arts, in house and in the world. In case you’re wondering about the creature above: It is a reminder of our January 21st drive from the company’s performance of Story/Time at Santa Barbara’s Granada Theater as part of the University of California Santa Barbara Arts & Lectures Series. A sublime ride up Highway 1 wherein the only conflict was the powerful crashing of waves against the shore while the rest of the country and the world were exploding in the many Million Women’s Marches across the nation and world.
My itinerary had been:
Miami, FL for the annual Young Arts gathering wherein my role as adviser, I addressed a group of 17-18 year-old dance and theater artists about the why and how of being a professional artist. Warm feelings, some crazy laughter and even tears.Meanwhile, back in NYC, this years Fresh Tracks artists were performing at New York Live Arts.
The following day, Julio LeParc’s revelatory retrospective at the Perez Museum delighted the eye, tickled the mind and raised questions about the canons of artistic innovation: If your work happened outside of NYC, did it really happen?
Traveled to Salt Lake City, Utah for an encounter with dance students at the University of Utah and a stimulating three way conversation with performance artist Taylor Mac and Flea Theater Artistic Director, Niegel Smith, who directed Taylor’s recent astounding A 24-Decade History of Popular Music 6 decades of which were commissioned by NYLA (and was my Associate Director on Fela!). The event was moderated by Doug Fabrizio, host of Radio West, a syndicated Salt Lake NPR daily show.
Art & Activism.
The dinner that followed that encounter hosted by Raymond Tymas-Jones, Dean of the College of Fine Arts, and, Brooke Ellen Horejsi, Assistant Dean for Art & Creative Engagement at the University, was, like many such dinners these days focused on how to do the right thing under the Trump administration! What a trip!
At breakfast the following morning at our hotel we ran into the essential Black intellectual, Ta-Nehisi Coates as he prepared to give a keynote address in partnership with the University’s Office for Equity and Diversity. Thank you to Brooke Ellen Horejsi and Raymond Tymas-Jones at Utah Presents, the Office for Equity and Diversity, Utah Humanities, and Tanner Humanities Center, Bob Goldberg and Anne Freed-Goldberg. to make all of the above happen!
From Utah, Bjorn and I flew to Los Angeles. Driving from the airport to Santa Barbara for a performance of Story/Time. A big shout out to the irrepressible Celestea Billeci and Annette Caleel.
Photo credit: Dean Zatkowsky
Rain, rain, rain:
The California drought must be over by now! Right?
Our stay there allowed us to reconnect with the lovely Tana Christie – a participant in the first (1992) of Still/Here’s Survival Workshops, which was held in Austin, TX – and her husband Joe.
Upon our arrival in San Francisco, the city’s streets were still vibrating from the previous day’s Million Women’s March. Looking towards the March workshop of Opera Philadelphia’s production of We Shall Not Be Moved, the new opera composed by Daniel Bernard Roumain which I am to direct and choreograph, I met with librettist, Marc Bamuthi Joseph as we continue to develop the characters’ storyline and the overall sense of our hybrid opera. We wrestled with the final confrontation between two north-Philly bred women who come to represent poles in our national debate on police violence, minority communities, failing education system and, once again, what it means to “do the right thing”:
We both made a choice miss, you and me, shit was too real at home and we left…
But we both chose a family to run with
How come your brother cops haven’t found you here yet?
Who cries for the brown girl gone missing?
I’m just asking for a head start
I’m asking you to put the gun down
UN/SUNG (with OG)
I’m asking you for permission to try to survive
The one with the gun has the moral high ground, no?”
That evening, I delivered a lecture title Empathy at San Francisco’s Jewish Community Center. The address dealt with the inevitable questions: how do we come together and find common ground in our divided era? Can we fashion a new political movement that reaches past our various bubbles?
After a couple of days home, Bjorn and I headed back out to Chicago to deliver a lecture titled Return as part of the Arts AIDS America exhibition, at the invitation of the Alphawood Foundation in collaboration with the DuSable Museum of African American History in who’s theater the lecture was held.
Me next to David Wojnarowicz’s work.
Warmly received talk and a vibrant, sometimes head-scratchily esoteric Q&A period stemming from the question: “Who in this room still believes in Democracy?”
The Museum’s Director, Perri L. Irmer, in walking us to our car took us through a powerful show, Freedom, Resistance and the Journey Towards Equality where I was confronted by one of the most chilling items I have ever seen:
A period Black Panther poster superimposed over the very bullet-ridden door the police blasted through on the night Fred Hampton was killed – a loan from painter Kerry James Marshall.
Back home again, it was snowing in the garden .
Bill’s Blog: Innocence and so on…
““Vivaldo,” she said, wearily, “just one thing. I don’t want you to be understanding. I don’t want you to be kind, okay?” She looked directly at him, and an unnameable heat and tension flashed violently alive between them, as close to hatred as it was to love. She softened and reached out, and touched his hand. “Promise me that.” “I promise you that,” he said. And then, furiously, “You seem to forget that I love you.” They stared at each other. Suddenly, he reached out and pulled her to him, trembling, with tears starting up behind his eyes, burning and blinding, and covered her face with kisses, which seemed to freeze as they fell. She clung to him; with a sigh she buried her face in his chest. There was nothing erotic in it; they were like two weary children. And it was she who was comforting him. Her long fingers stroked his back, and he began, slowly, with a horrible, strangling sound, to weep, for she was stroking his innocence out of him.” – James Baldwin – Another Country
This chilling scene occurs between interracial lovers, Ida (a black aspiring singer) and Vivaldo (a white writer), the morning after she has been unfaithful to him with a powerful white man explaining that this man could get her a job.
The many recent police shootings of black men stopped for minor offences could not prepare me for the shooting of Philando Castile in St Paul, MN. The exchange with the gun wielding policemen was filmed and streamed live on Facebook by his girlfriend, Diamond Reynolds, as her four year-old daughter sat in the back seat witnessing everything.
Several days ago, I was invited to participate with poet Claudia Rankine and WNYC’s Producer of Special Projects on Race, Rebecca Carroll, in a segment of Leonard Lopate’s show hosted by Arun Venugopal titled On Art and Civic Unrest (Listen here). Arun asked for each of our responses to the continuous barrage of such events. My answer began trying to describe this blog centered on the notion of innocence.
At any time before this latest shooting, I would have recalled the excerpt from Baldwin’s Another Country and smiled, ruefully, convinced I knew something about this experience that shocked white Americans did not.
Two more shootings of black men followed…
Then, during peaceful protests in Dallas and Baton Rouge disgruntled former soldiers, both of them black, gunned down policemen.
My rueful smile of experience slipped as I felt my own innocence ripped away from me, not stroked. What replaced it? Ineffable sadness and a curious desire to sing it away dance it away or tell you – whoever you are – about it. And yet… nothing seemed able to replace the comfortable skin, that innocence, like a discarded suit of clothes, puddled, useless at my feet.
New York Live Arts moves forward, under the leadership of Executive Director, Kim Cullen, looking to the future with significant changes to the artistic team, breaking down silos with everyone now working collaboratively towards the mission of our organization.
My long-time collaborator and Associate Artistic Director of the Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Company, Janet Wong, is now Associate Artistic Director of New York Live Arts.
Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Company’s Producing Director, Kyle Maude, is now Producing Director of New York Live Arts assisted by Isabella Hreljanovic who’s been promoted to the Senior Producer position.
The second part of the Analogy Trilogy, Lance: Pretty, aka The Escape Artist had a successful opening at the American Dance Festival in Durham, NC. You can read the review here.
My nephew, Lance T. Briggs, who’s oral history is excerpted in the work and who contributed some original songs to it, flew in with his mother from Tampa, FL, and attended the performances. I had last visited him this past fall on the eve of a life threatening surgery he underwent. I was moved to have him there and to see his interaction with my dancers who were very excited at this opportunity to have an exchange with the man they had been referencing in various forms throughout the months long creative process.
This confluence of my personal life with my creative team and its supporters: Jodee Nimerichter and her ADF staff, former board members/funders Ellie Friedman and Carol Tolan as well as present board member Helen Mills with her husband Gary and our fearless commissioning partner, Babs Case was extremely rewarding
At one point during the NPR On Art and Civic Unrest interview, Arun Venugopal asked about a statement I had made somewhere about my desiring that Lance’s audiences should feel something akin to being in the black church: call and response, a shout-out, embraced by a community. The truest part of my answer was that I hoped this hypothetical audience might feel my heart and the truth of the conversation between me and my nephew struggling – two black men – to love, to love each other, at all times but, particularly, at this time!
A view from Woodbox, our little house the mesa of Northern NM where I am spending the month
Spoken word artist, Marc Bamuthi Joseph, the librettist for We Shall Not Be Moved, the opera composed by Daniel Bernard Roumain which I’ve been invited to direct and choreograph by Opera Philadelphia sent me the following on the occasion of Muhamad Ali’s passing: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f9xOiWnsK-Q&feature=youtu.be
Fear and Anger
“During the war I was only really frightened once.-Dora Amelan about her time at Gurs Internment Camp in 1942
Dora Amelan made this astounding statement to me during a recent call from Paris as I sat waiting for our flight back to NY from Jackson Hole, WY.
Dancers’ Workshop, led by the inspiring Babs Case hosted a creative residency for Analogy/Lance: Pretty aka The Escape Artist, the second installment in the Analogy Trilogy. We had just shown a preview performance of the work the night before.
“Only once?!” I said to Nick Hallett, the trilogy’s composer after hanging up. “I can’t count the times I have been afraid” retorted Nick. I agreed.
And so it is with life for many of us in our society, but for artists in particular.
When to be afraid? When to be angry?
Exhausted, but mellow, following the success of the Analogy/Lance preview, it took a while for me to come out of the extreme concentration and self-involvement of bringing such a complicated work into the world. Was it the NY Times ever erupting coverage of the horrendous slaughter at a Gay club in Orlando? Was it my nephew, Lance Briggs, missing our very regular phone exchanges asking was I alright and had I heard of the tragedy that had just happened in a neighboring city to Tampa where he is recuperating at his mother’s home? For whatever reason, I realized with some chagrin, that we had not acknowledged the previous night’s ghastly carnage to the ostensibly liberal audience at our well-attended showing. Many pieces began to fall into place:
- A few weeks earlier, in Charleston, SC, Bjorn and I stopped dead in our track upon seeing a sign posted at the entrance of a restaurant saying “Concealed weapons prohibited”!
- During break, on the afternoon of the showing in Jackson Hole, as Bjorn and I were sitting at Café Genevieve, I suddenly realized that the man with whom we had just had a very pleasant exchange about the quality of a particular beer, had a pistol strapped to his hip…
When to be afraid? When to be angry?
Charleston, SC – The Spoleto Festival
To the Poem by Frank O’Hara:
Let us do something grand
just this once Something
small and important and
unAmerican Some fine thing
will resemble a human hand
and really be merely a thing
Not needing a military band
nor an elegant forthcoming
to tease spotlights or a hand
from the public’s thinking
But be In a defiant land
of its own a real right thing
Cautious, lest I be a boorish guest who offends, or “bites the hand of his host” I read this poem to preface the remarks I had been invited to make at the opening of the 40th Anniversary Season of the Spoleto Festival USA. I made a point of framing this poem historically, drawing attention to its having been written in the 1950’s – another period when we as a country were faced with the stink of mendacious, divisive politics and a deep uncertainty as to where the truth of our national identity lay. I was aware of the gravity and symbolism of the moment as I joined 6 luminaries including Charleston’s previous and present mayors, the head of Spoleto’s board and, most significantly, The Reverend Dr. Betty Deas Clark, the pastor of the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church. I was aware that my diverse audience, sitting in the midday’s blazing sun, had suffered a trauma: the June 7, 2015, assassination of eight members and the pastor of the abovementioned church at the hands of a young white supremacist and that they were in the process of “healing”.
As if it were not complex enough, two encounters with average Charlestonians in the next few days have left me wondering once again about the nature of truth, the passage of time and who’s narrative becomes the reigning one:
- Bjorn and I were met with rain upon leaving our hotel and decided to take the well-appointed black SUV that was parked in front. The driver, a large dignified Black man who commanded respect with his Southern courtly manner, held his peace for a while as we cruised down King Street. For some reason, he was inspired to say, “This city is changing by the day. This street used to have a number of Black businesses, but you won’t find one now that it’s been gentrified!” As we were crossing Calhoun Street, (named after John C. Calhoun 1782 – 1850 a statesman and political theorist from South Carolina, who is best remembered for his strong defense of slavery and for advancing the concept of minority rights in politics) I asked him “What about the name of this street?” Our driver, in his basso profundo, responded pointing back over his shoulder to the statue of the man “Yeah, some folks talk of taking that down, but you know what, it took these nine people being shot dead for that flag to come down…”
- Hurrying to the car headed to the airport after our riotously received performance of two works, Story/ to Schubert’s Death and the Maiden quartet and D-Man in the Waters to Mendelson’s Octet in E-flat Major, our guest, Terrance McKnight, WQXR’s mellifluous voiced classical music presenter who happens to be African American, stopped us to say, “You took the cliché of classical music and made something surprising and interesting.” I thanked him and, as a rushed afterthought, asked whether he would support a New York Live Arts driven event we are planning titled Thank You Mr. Obama. He responded, “Certainly, I respect the man”. As we pulled away, our driver – a white man about the age of the Black driver mentioned above – said, “… We had a tragedy here and we don’t need those troublemakers like Jesse Jackson, Al Sharpton, (Mr Obama?) We can take care of our own problems!”
Meanwhile, what about Anger and Fear? New York Live Arts is what I hold to as the place where these complexities can be named and processed.
We are excited by our five fingers strategy for sustainability and growth. Hope you enjoy our new graphics – come join us!
Bill’s Blog: Who? What? Where? When? How?
WHO-Jen Rosenblit, a performance artist whose work I am just getting to know. We are co-presenting her latest work, Clap Hands with the Invisible Dog Art Center in Brooklyn.
I saw Jen in Part 3 of Miguel Gutierrez’s Age and Beauty that we commissioned and presented here at New York Live Arts last fall. At one moment, as she and a very young performer were grappling just in front of me, Jen and I made eye contact or at least I think she was looking at me. The look was opaque, neither open or guarded, maybe wary-certainly aware. She employed that gaze much of the time in Clap Hands the other night.
Bill’s Blog: How much do those pants cost?
“If the pants you are wearing cost more than $50 turn 10 times!”
This peculiar direction came to us as we, audience/observers of Farah Saleh’s Free Advice performance at New York Live Arts, stood in small groups – some of us in stocking feet – amid brightly colored exercise balls and cardboard signs, gamely participating in what was described as “highly interactive”. The artist herself never spoke, but suddenly her voice in “voice of God” mode came through the P.A. system with a cascade of questions/commands:
- “If you are barefoot move to the center of the room!”
- “If you don’t like your job, extend your left foot!”
- “If you believe you could (should?) use less resources, start acting out!”
- “If you will use less resources starting tomorrow, sit down!”
- “If you believe in a cultural boycott of Israel, change your position!”
- “If you believe in a one state solution, step forward!”
- “If you are confused, sit down!”
- “If you believe you are unable to change your reality, leave this space!”
- “If you believe you are able to change your reality, leave this space!”
As you can see, the questions were certainly designed to be interactive, striving for a variety of confrontations, social, personal, political…
I would like to focus on the pants command as the very next night at our New York Live Arts gala – the most successful to date – we held an auction lead by the strange and curiously delightful auctioneer C.K. Swett. His final lot, number 4, was a dinner at the winner’s home to be prepared by celebrity chef David Waltuck for 7 friends in the company of Claire Danes, Hugh Dancy, Bjorn Amelan and myself. The winning bid – $10,000 – was sold twice.
Going back to the night before: As I was wearing a pair of Prada leather motorcycle pants certainly valued at more than $50, I was one of only two or three people spinning in the dispersed group of about 30 or 40. I felt foolish and suddenly excluded in this hip audience of inclusion. I did laugh along with the others even when the same instruction was given a second time. Likewise, I laughed nervously at the auction as I was literally being “sold” for the purpose of making the budget that will allow Live Arts to present work that critiques the hold Money, Class and Privilege have on us all and, certainly in the case of our “mid-sized” arts institution in particular.
Here are some images from our Live Ideas Festival: MENA/Future taking place at New York Live Arts and around NYC these past three months.
One of the most exquisite dancers I have ever seen. It left me feeling like this
Do you like movies? I saw and “Eye In The sky”, the English thriller dealing with the complex, ethical questions around drone warfare.
Wishing you an ever-warmer and productive spring time!
Bill’s Blog: March
I have been following your Platform series through the committed coverage of the NY Times. You are extremely photogenic. I am, as always, moved by the picture of you sitting alone in an uninhabited room or against a graffiti’ed wall in a South American city. You often project pensive, internal sadness in your photos. I look forward to seeing the only one of your performances my schedule allows on March 17.
A-propos to our conversation, I am struck with how the writers seldom mention your ethnicity. They do comment on what you call your “old Japanese clothes”. I believe this clothing, these poetic rags, are a sort of “envelope of safety” for you, the “perpetual other”. I attribute their power to the unspoken contract we in the US have with the complex history of post-war Japan. You become a sort of cinematic or novelistic phantasm, ghost or projection. We can look at you with compassion tinged with anxiety and regret. There is a moral authority in your otherness.
You call your solos “A Body in Space”. Are you “just another body in space?” or “any body in space?” I don’t think so. Firstly, you are an accomplished master of the persona you project, but you are – likewise – firmly established as “the other” in our imagination.
When I imagine what my costume would be like offering me a place in the American mythic imagination as you have assumed, it would be a basketball uniform or a rap-artist’s drag circa 1983, or elegantly and impeccably dressed like Miles Davis circa 1961. However, I feel the mythical Black man’s garb I could best employ to match your effect, as this ghost/survivor would be simply naked, or near so, ready for the slave-block, the workhouse or the hanging tree.
And how would my ghost move? … Most likely he wouldn’t!
Your last contribution to our email conversation ends asking me about my own political activism during the 1970’s. Well, I did lead a walkout in my high school fueled by our teenage outrage at a dress code that said that girls could not wear pants. I did refuse to stand and say the Pledge of Allegiance with my hand over my heart at the school’s assembly program. My parents made the self-conscious political choice to name our pathetically underfinanced, mismanaged attempt at opening a restaurant in our small, conservative town “The Kennedy Inn” because, as my mother Estella said, “These biggity (!) white folks don’t like this man because he wants to give the black man a fair break!” Later, I marched in at least one demonstration lead by Caesar Chavez in support of migrant farm workers. But mostly, I indulged in a lot of predictable posturing, as I never had to burn my draft card or flee to Canada to escape the draft during the Vietnam War. Still, I felt I was living a highly charged and political life. Was it asking a white girl to the prom? Was it dancing slowly with Arnie Zane as the only outwardly gay and interracial couple at the Black students’ extremely heterosexual gathering at the State University of NY Binghamton? Was it walking brazenly hand in hand with Arnie Zane into a Department of Sanitation’s warehouse full of leering working class white men who were to be our colleagues for the day in Johnson City, NY to do our monthly roadwork garbage detail that qualified us for food stamps and public assistance?
So, in response to your question, I am tempted to say that my most consistent political struggle is reflected in the fact that taken how antagonistic the culture was to various aspects of my personal identity – I did not die! What do I mean? I spent a great deal of my childhood, adolescence and young adulthood hiding… Hiding my race, my class, my sexual dilemma. My worldview – my politics if you will – was forged in desire to be “integrated”. Yes, integrated and yet visible. I regret to say – though it hurts me like the ghost-pain in an amputated arm – I continue to do so in our era at once roiled by questions of gender, race and class. Even in this field we call the art world, which thinks itself free, color-blind and progressive.
At the Armory Show in Jack Shainman’s Gallery booth, the painting at the top of this entry – the black man in the pink suit – like so many artists in Shainman’s stable, took my breath away as I realized this man in the pink suit was the new paradigm, the ultimate insider, no longer “the other”, but representing an image of self that is industry standard for suave, sexually desirable, charming and VISIBLE!
There have been some very provocative performances recently at New York Live Arts. Our Live Feed artist, Gillian Walsh and the main stage presentation of Champagne Jerry in the Champagne Room. Both these works are dealing with volatile issues of appropriation and conversations around cultural currency. It’s my hope that I can talk Neal Medlyn and Gillian Walsh into a sit-down question and answer session that I hope to include in my next blog.
There have been two notable personal events this past month:
The Human Rights Campaign’s annual gala at NY’s Waldorf Astoria Hotel during which I was awarded their Visibility Award. Big night! Circa 1,000 people in attendance; the major political fundraising vibration. My co-honorees for the evening were Governor Andrew Cuomo who received the National Equality Award and Sigourney Weaver the Ally for Equality Award. I am not sure if the Governor was doing a political star turn, but he was certainly impassioned in his defense of transgender rights. Sigourney Weaver was elegant and moving, speaking of one of her latest films in which she plays a religiously conservative mother’s transformation from homophobe to vocal activist for equality. The great Kathleen Turner, a new friend and powerful advocate for social change gave my introduction.
On February 15 (my 64th birthday!!!) I performed a talking solo 21 (1983) as the closing speaker of TED’s 2016 opening session. It was received with great warmth and interest. I must say it was one of the high points of my entire performing career.
Spring will soon be here and we will be celebrating our annual spring gala on March 24th. Our host this year is Hugh Dancy and the evening will feature performances by Mx Justin Vivian Bond, Bill T. Jones/ Arnie Zane Company, Sarah Jones, Tony Award-winning Playwright and Performer, Okwui Okpokwasili, Sonya Tayeh and the Bengsons, and YoungArts Alumni. More information here!
Yesterday, flying into Salt Lake City on our way to Park City where the company performs tonight, I was bowled over to see An (Sweet Bean Paste) a film by Naomi Kawase. This film succeeds on so many levels. It’s warm, it’s delicious in its depiction of what goes into a humble pastry and it’s profound in the subtle revealing of its theme of who gets included and what is a life well lived. I highly recommend it!