Bill T. Jones / Arnie Zane Company

Deep Blue Sea

“Pip saw God’s foot upon the treadle of the loom, and spoke it; and therefore his shipmates called him mad. So man’s insanity is heaven’s sense; and wandering from all mortal reason, man comes at last to that celestial thought, which, to reason, is absurd and frantic; and weal or woe, feels then uncompromised, indifferent as his God.”
-Herman Melville, Moby Dick

Bill T. Jones, Janet Wong, and The Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Company’s
massive new work Deep Blue Sea revolves around the interplay of single and group identities. Jones conceived this highly personal work in pursuit of the elusive “we” during these fractious times through a cast of 100 dancers/community members, and a deconstructed text from Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” and Herman Melville’s Moby Dick. The visual environment will be transformed by the renowned architect Liz Diller (Diller, Scofidio + Renfro) in collaboration with Peter Nigrini, Robert Wierzel and Liz Prince. The score is an original composition by Nick Hallett, with an electronic component by music producer HPrizm aka High Priest, performed by and created with Holland Andrews. In addition to choreographing and directing, for the first time in over 15 years, Jones himself performs.

Commissioned by Park Avenue Armory in collaboration with Holland Festival Commissioning support provided by The Mann Center for the Performing Arts with original support from The Pew Center for Arts & Heritage, Philadelphia. Additional commissioning support from Carolina Performing Arts, Partners in Creation, Ed Bradley Foundation, New York State Council on the Arts with the support of Governor Andrew Cuomo and the New York State Legislature, NEFA/NDP and the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs. Produced and developed by Park Avenue Armory in collaboration with New York Live Arts.

Deep Blue Sea World Premiere Testimonials:

“We enter and find you already present
In inward forward motion
Reminding us that it, we, nothing ever really stops moving
Few stop
to notice you on their way to
Some where
We traverse the space then walk past and through the space
Not yet knowing what to do with you
Not yet knowing how to be with you in this way
Your way
Black and man and erect and speaking
With clear voice and intention to disrupt whatever turh we came with
You, their, our, due north

How do they not see you? No, this is the wrong question
It’s center is off
You are our center
You there in the corner
In side your parenthesis

Index finger pointing east right toe toward the west
You their our due north
A soundtrack of questions piece the silence
We are not the woods nor you some fallen tree
Without witness to bear you
No you are
Black and man and erect and speaking
Still, I ask,
You, their, our due north
What ARE greatness AND BEAUTY without a little cruelty

You reply with
Index finger pointing east, right toe toward the west
point you toward
Forward motion
Point you toward future with
Words recited
Be never we can Bill satisfied
Be never we can Bill satisfied
Be never we can Bill satisfied”

    • Helga Davis response poem
      Vocalist and Performance Artist

“Bill T. Jones is a Major American and Global Artist. A Creative Force.

His Work has never failed to Engage, Stimulate and Challenge me.

And on various occasions, encountering Bill’s Work over the years, I’ve been Deeply Moved.

And I’ve been Moved at times, even when I can’t necessarily articulate what the Work is ‘About’.

For me: That is one of the signs of Truly Impactful; Searing and Compelling Work. One doesn’t necessarily have to ‘understand’ the Work. But if the Work engages One, emotionally with Depth; that for me, is the ultimate barometer of any given Works’ ‘success’.

Deep Blue Sea falls squarely into that Category, that Realm, for me.

The Breadth and Magnitude of the Work,  is Deeply Engaging; Thought Provoking; and Compelling.

Culminating, as it does, with the Creative Contributions of the Vast Swath of Members of the  Community, adds additional components to the Deeply Felt and Deeply Human Aspect  to this (in my opinion),  Layered, Socio-Political; Human; Humane; and Visually Stunning Work.

This Work is ‘About’ All of Us.

Bravo (!!), Bill T. Jones, and ALL Participants of Deep Blue Sea.

Thank You.”

    • Delroy Lindo

Deep Blue Sea: The wide scope, the thrilling beauty, the deep humanity, the sense of a vast collaboration among consummate artists who all had something significant to say, addressing our current traumas but also fulfilling our most penetrating yearnings.  Sitting in the Armory, I felt like I did not want to be anywhere else in the entire world.  This one place, these blessed moments, right there.  Rare.”

    • Anne Bogart

“A microcosm of methods and themes that have preoccupied Jones for decades, and whose urgency endures, Deep Blue Sea is a work of tremendous ambition and beauty, offering a virtuosic depth of artistic inquiry committed to a constant re-examination of what live performance makes possible.”

“From the first moment of seeing a sole, aging body in a vast space, to the final teeming throng of people moving in harmony, this was an epic experience. The weaving together of movement, literature, and drastic visuals kept me fully alive. Bill magically activated his space-devouring dancers. Among my lingering thoughts was the realization that Bill accomplished this deep dive through postmodern forms. This is natural for Bill, but it was striking because these forms were originally meant for experimentation, but he expanded them to plumb the sea of discontent and build the courage to face reality/brutality. Specifically Rainer’s litany of refusals, originally written to defy stale aesthetics, was expanded here to call out injustice. With a gathering force, Deep Blue Sea offered gravitas, grace in collectivity, specificity (forgetting Pip and remembering Pip), and constant questioning. It was more than just, Oh we’re all coming back from the pandemic. It was, Art can do this, art can go this deep. I didn’t want to see another performance for a long time after that night.”

    • Wendy Perron

“Thank you for an incisive consideration of our moment and our histories – especially the ones we don’t remember. Thank you for the invitation to be in a landscape of multiple truths. Thank you for the righteous anger and the room to not know and yet know in your gut. Thank you for the beauty and the spectacle that remind me we are part of something much more vast and also that we each have the potential to make such great beauty.

I long to still be on the floor with some of you now. Considering. And sharing deeply. It is a captivating, generous and probing work. I am honored to have witnessed it, and Bill to have witnessed you in such grace and command.”

    • Niegel Smith 

“Something that really impressed me in Deep Blue Sea was the sense of transmission, combining creative and critical thinking with legacy and memory. Watching Bill T. Jones return to the stage was all the more powerful because that meant watching Bill T. Jones share the stage, offer his space to other artists and citizens. Doing so, Jones doesn’t diminish his own presence. On the contrary. It’s his reading of Melville or Martin Luther King, his personal and artistic experiences that invite the audience to navigate this performance. It is by using his own voice that Bill T. Jones creates the space for others to use their voices and the diverse choir that is created is as powerful and moving as the sea”.

    • Tiago Rodrigues

“Deep Blue Sea was truly epic, an amazing spectacle; forgive the cliches — It’s difficult to point out particular dance moments — the male / female duet and the astounding male solo come to mind — but, overall, the meticulously executed unisons by the superbly trained dancers were continually absorbing —And I was blown away by the arrival of the “horde” and their disciplined maneuvering in much loved (by me) clumps, lines, and constant re-shaping of the space —

Another much appreciated segment was when Bill T brought a camera to record sequentially the faces of the dancers, which were then each projected in huge detail on the floor, again a maneuver that I’ve never seen before — Indeed, his technicians are to be commended for their resourcefulness in doing without the conventional rear screen —

I must mention Bill T’s own performance in speech and movement, attesting to HIS resourcefulness and enduring energy — Though the acoustics didn’t allow me, or my companion, to catch all the language, enough got through to make a fine balance and creative interplay between the spectacle and the social, racial, and political references, especially Bill T.’s very personal take on Melville’s ˆMoby Dick” —

Weeks later, I am still ruminating on this masterful work of theater and choreography —”

    • Yvonne Rainer

“Bill T. Jones’ Deep Blue Sea is enthralling, thrilling, and plumbs the depths of both mind and body. The intersection of Melville’s story and Dr. King’s words is electric and the creative use of words, bodies, light, and darkness turn the Armory into the most thought provoking spectacle I’ve encountered in recent times.”

    • Roger Berkowitz
      Academic Director
      Hannah Arendt Center for Politics and Humanities
      at Bard College

“Deep Blue Sea is one of the best pieces of work that we have seen in a long time, on the levels of performance, provocation, self-examination, and sheer beauty. What claim can any of us have to ‘certainty’? And without it, who are we? Like the infinite ocean that Bill T Jones and his collaborators, astonishingly, recreate, these questions have continued to resonate long after the show ended. What a gift.”

    • Claire Danes & Hugh Dancy

“I feel immense gratitude that I happen to be alive at the same time that Bill T Jones and Janet Wong are. That the universe conspired for me to be able to witness this profound work is a prayer fulfilled. Because what a prayer it is – encompassing not only the massive expanse of the sea, but rooting deep deep deep in the earth and capturing all of the sky.”

    • Mei Ann Teo

Deep Blue Sea was a revelation wrapped in a wondrous, full and fluid box of ideas, dreams, and defiance. The exceptional dance company, the brilliant creative team, and the community of movers and makers—all brought together by the iconic genius of Bill T. Jones—melted into a type of fantastically frenzied family where the audience was witness to a stirring, seminal, landmark event. My only regret is that I can’t return to the safe spaces this work carved out for all of us where promise and passion abound.”