July 26, 2012 | by Erin Durkin
‘Story/Time’ snippets

‘Story/Time’
Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Dance Co.
Tuesday at 8:30 p.m.
Wolf Trap
1551 Trap Road
Vienna, VA
$4-40

Morning intermediate dance class
10:30 a.m.-noon
Tuesday
Must be at least 12 years old
$15 registration to take the class; $7 to watch

‘Story/Time’ features an ever-evolving series of dance vignettes — about one per minute. (Photo courtesy New York Live Arts Inc.)

Childhood, existentialism of a middle-aged performer, sexuality, memories of a mother and memories of a late companion — these are just a few of the stories featured in Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Dance Company’s piece “Story/Time,” slated for a Tuesday performance at Wolf Trap.

An award-winning performer who has created more than 100 works, Jones began the dance company with his late companion Arnie Zane in 1982. After Zane’s death in 1988, Jones continued to create and perform original pieces with the company as well as providing choreography to different operas and ballet companies.

The performance is 70 minutes and consists of about 70 performances. The stories come from different moments and memories of Jones’ life, lives of the dancers, things they’ve read and other points of inspiration. They are a blend of narration and movement.

“The stories can come from driving down the street and what I see, or remembering something I was reading,” Jones says. “I go back and find that thing and craft it into a story.”

One of the stories featured in the show is about a conversation his mother, Estrella, had with Anjelica Huston when the actress inquired about her church. His mother’s response was, “We accept all kinds.” Other stories reflect on memories of Zane.

In the show, Jones is sitting at a desk reading over the music composed by Ted Coffey while dancers move around him. He has now written more than 120 stories for this performance piece and the stories for each performance vary and are chosen at random. The structure of each story is also changed every two performances.

“The performance is a very free structure from beginning to end, yet we are still structured by time,” he says. “If the audience wants to close their eyes and just listen, or close their ears and just watch, they should not be afraid to let the visuals and the sound to wash over oneself.”

Jones says the show was inspired by the piece by legendary performer John Cage titled “Indeterminacy.” In a similar structure, Cage’s piece was 90 minutes long composed of one-minute stories. The juxtaposition of freedom trapped into one-minute intervals intrigued Jones.

However, he says “Story/Time” is not a replica of Cage’s performance, but rather a new piece based on a similar artistic idea.

“Art making is idea, maybe even more than ideas,” Jones says. “It is how one makes something from nothing.”

He says that his piece differs greatly from Cage’s, aside from the limitation of time.

“I’m not John Cage and the way I make movements, they are coming from a different place,” he says. “They come from my experiences as a black gay man born in 1952, rather than a Irish gay man born in the 1920s. He never dealt with sexuality and his politics and social justice are strikingly different.”

Jones would like the audience to treat the performance, “as if you were sitting on the beach and watching the waves. Some waves strike deeper than others.”

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