BILL'S BLOG

 

01/12/2016
Bill’s Blog: HAPPY NEW YEAR!

As has been the case for the past 22 years, this final week of 2015 here on the mesa of Northern NM, provides an opportunity to look back and forward.

Following the strange and abrupt premiere of A Letter To My Nephew in France (watch the trailer here, pw btjaz), the reality changing experience of which I commented upon in my last blog, the company performed a series of successful performances at the Maison de la Danse in Lyon, France. Bjorn and I left the company after its premiere, driving through the Alps to Alba, Piedmont, to accept the invitation of the Ceretto family to spend a week as guests of their artists’ residency program set amidst their beautiful Barolo vineyards.

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While Bjorn worked on a painting, I spent my days in the Bill Katz designed artists’ studio and at the The Sol LeWitt and David Tremlett Chapel (in nearby Brunate, La Morra), rehearsing my first solo in 8 years, a collaboration with the wonderful contemporary music ensemble, yMusic, to a new score composed by Marcos Balter titled Which Enables Us To Fly.
This solo, alternating with Diane McIntyre dancing to the same score, was premiered at Live Arts on December 9 and marked the culmination of yMusic’s participation in our first music residency program. It was an honor to share this music with Diane, and yMusic are fantastic players and wonderful people to work with!

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The New Year opens with our Live Artery Festival with over 35 performances in 2 weeks both here at Live Arts and off-site at JACK and Abrons Arts Center, including a work-in-progress showing of the second installment of my company’s trilogy, Analogy/Lance: Pretty aka The Escape Artist. (Tickets here)

I am honored to be featured at the APAP Conference (Association of Performing Arts Presenters) Opening Plenary Session Making the Arts Matter, with a special dancing lecture at NY’s Hilton Hotel on January 15. In keeping with the theme of this year’s conference, the piece will be called Making and Doing. It will be followed immediately by a panel with Stephanie Schneider (arts educator), Carla Dirlikov (founder, CEO and artistic director, The Canales Project) and Paula Kerger, (president and CEO, PBS). The panel will be moderated by Anna Deavere Smith.

We are delighted that the brilliant Sarah Jones will be bringing a preview of her much-anticipated Sell/Buy/Date directed by Caroly Cantor (Jan. 6-10 & 12-16 – tickets here).

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As those of you who have been following this blog know, I started reporting of an ongoing email conversation I’ve been having with choreographer Eiko Otake and here is its third installment.

A Conversation with Eiko (part 3)

Dear Eiko,

When the idea of our casual email conversation occurred to me out of my reading your introduction to and translation of Kyoko Hayashi’s From Trinity to Trinity, I thought it would be easy to find our back and forth, digging into our various work-methods, responses to issues of identity, memory, history, ethnicity and feelings such as disgruntlement or anger. Boy was I mistaken!

I had never considered just how much emotional and logistical efforts must go into creating my work with Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Dance Company, supporting New York Live Arts’ administrative team and Thomas Kriegsman its Director of Programs.

Likewise, I could not have foreseen the stress of a premiere of a “pièce d’occasion” A Letter To My Nephew for our tour in France and most certainly I could not have imagined how the world would change as we finished our first performance at Créteil’s Maison des Arts in Paris and walked out to witness this important city reeling from a Jihadist attack in its vibrant center. And then, making my first solo in 8 years, I had forgotten how much one must shut out the world even as one listens to hear what this naked ritual of creation needs in order to find truth. Yet, the New Year finds me full of optimism at the prospect of restarting our conversation.

Picking up where we left off in Blog #7…

September 23, 2015:

Dear Eiko,
It is my hope we will be able to “swap questions” and start talking to address any number of issues that will frame our conversation such as:
• How do the specifics of our persons affect and inform the work we’re doing?
• How the reality of time and place affects us and our work?
• Does a “universal” in life and art really exist?
My first question will deal more with you than your subject of Kyoko Hayashi’s From Trinity to Trinity. In the beginning of your introduction you say “Hayashi’s work quietly and brilliantly chronicled the experience of hibakusha…”. (Hibakusha is the Japanese name for survivors of Hiroshima and Nagasaki) Later you describe what you admire in Hayashi’s writing, “…straightforwardness, perseverance, dark humor and profound quietness.”
An anecdote: My brother, an aspiring Zen Buddhist, who was living in San Francisco at one point and meditating daily at the Zen Center located literally in the “hood” largely populated by Black people, asked his teacher why the Zen temple was not more involved in its surrounding community. His teacher responded that Zen is about quiet and Black people are not quiet.
My question is: Is quiet inherently Japanese or is it a learned quality? How does this question live in your work and life?
Warmly,
Bill

From Eiko, September 23rd, 2015

Thanks Bill.

Our conversation had started when we spoke in Jodee Nimerichter’s house, I think…
It was indeed new to talk to you eye to eye.

Can you give me some context to your second and third questions? I feel I know where the first question and your last question about “quiet” come from. But the second and the third questions are more abstract and I do not even know how to start…
Can you tell me why and how you arrive at these questions and why and how you address them to me? Or are these a set of questions you generally carry and ask of others as well? Are these your recent questions or decade long questions?

love eiko

From Bill, December 21, 2015

Thanks Eiko.

“Why you and why now?”

As I read your translation and its introduction, I was struck by the contrast between the notion of “quietness” and Ms Kyoko Hayashi’s (and yours?) controlled sense of outrage.

Your choice of translating Hayashi’s disturbing report of being a victim of America’s atrocious military gesture coupled with the prejudice she experienced as a “hibakusha” (the Japanese word for victims of the atomic bombings) at home, allowed me to see you – perhaps for the first time – as a Japanese artist offering a specific worldview as opposed to the “universal” one we “downtown artists” have been encouraged to adopt as a sort of passport of neutrality.

I felt you were, with the most gracious politeness, objecting and drawing attention to what separates you from the downtown, race-blind, class-blind world that gave us our artistic identities. You are using history. You are stressing the 70th anniversary of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. This made me wonder if anyone in our progressive, well-educated field had dared ask you about your feelings about the war and if you would be willing to speak out frankly in the complex emotional way Kyoko Hayashi has done in her writing.

I was also able to look at how I, like many others who appreciate the work you (and Koma) have done over the years, tacitly attribute its “strangeness” to your “otherness”, your “Japanese-ness”.

Now that this country’s discourse is yet again racked with questions of race and its never healed wounds, I am critical of the avant-garde’s smug confidence that we are all “the same” and can teach the world how to “get along”.

Yes, I can honestly say I have always carried these questions and yet, recent events around police violence, Black men, Black people and others have made these once again fresh and urgent.

To be continued…

Now, back to my dreamy last few days here on the mesa under a grey sky, cold wind and snow as the fires roar in our wood-burning stoves.

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Yesterday, I visited Bette Winslow, a much loved dance teacher and owner of the studio that bore her name until she retired a while back. Bette and I have been friends since my early visits to the area when I rented her studio to rehearse. Ms Winslow, age 96, is still as elegant, smart and warm as ever…

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Hope to see you around New York Live Arts where our season continues with many programs you don’t want to miss.