SUNY Purchase students prepare to perform Spent Days Out Yonder

This spring, students at SUNY-Purchase learned Bill T. Jones’ Spent Days Out Yonder, re-staged by former company member Ayo Janeen Jackson.  Students will perform the work over two weeks in April and May: at SUNY Purchase on April 26-28 and at New York Live Arts on May 22-25.  This week’s blog shares the students’ responses to learning Spent Days.  

Students rehearsing the phrase material with restager Ayo Janeen Jackson.
Students rehearsing the phrase material with restager Ayo Janeen Jackson.

1.  If you were to describe this piece to someone who knew nothing about dance, what would you tell him or her?

“To someone who knew nothing about dance, Spent Days Out Yonder comes off as a very simple uncomplicated piece of choreography. As a dancer, I would tell them the exact opposite.  The movements are small, the dancers look effortless, and the music is incredibly easy on the ears, but the intricacy of the structure and the endless details in the choreography add several obstacles.” –Hannah Button

“Spent Days Out Yonder is an intimate reflection where movement flows effortlessly alongside Mozart’s music.  It is a piece of dream-like quality that gets its tenderness from the exchange of dancers in and out of a set phrase and an improvisational-based train surrounding it.  The movement vocabulary and the specificity established through a clear connection of dance and music draw a line for the audience to journey on from beginning to end.  Bill T. Jones has created a dance piece which warms the soul and recalls fond memories with its ease and playfulness.” –Michelle Giordanelli

2. What is unique about this rehearsal process?

“What makes this rehearsal process unique is that the piece is not only based on an improvisation by Mr. Jones, but it exists within an improvisational shell.  So, each run is different and a product of our decisions in the moment.  It requires attentiveness to our surroundings and phrasing which brings forth a mental challenge most set pieces don’t deal with constantly.  We are working with the balance between impulses and decisions passed through a rational strainer, which allows for a continual reinvention of our improvised material and of how we fill in the piece.” –Michelle Giordanelli

3. Why do you think this piece is worth remembering and keeping alive?  What do we have to learn from it today?

“As a dancer, it’s important to remember this piece because of the complexity in performing it. There’s something that sets this piece apart from others being created nowadays, and there’s certainly a classic nature about it that can be appreciated forever. For audiences, I think it’s important to keep Spent Days alive because it’s refreshing for the palate. So much of dance is about pounding of steps that are meant to “wow” an audience, and people forget that dance is beautiful just because it allows us to see what it’s like to move the human body. This piece illustrates that perfectly.” –Amanda Krische