CREATIVE PEAKS: Storytelling dynamo

By on August 11, 2015

When spoken word and dance combine

Dancers from the renowned Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Dance company will move their lips along with their bodies to relay a compelling tale to audiences. (Credit: Paul B Goode)

Dancers from the renowned Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Dance company will move their lips along with their bodies to relay a compelling tale to audiences. (Credit: Paul B Goode)

Jackson Hole, Wyoming – About two years ago, one of the dancers of the  Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Dance Company asked one of its founders, Bill Jones, where his interests now fell.

Jones realized immediately his interest was in words. So he started to think about a way to combine his love of dance with something literary.

The award winning choreographer has used spoken word in many of his pieces, in fact he is known for it. But this time he wanted to do something different.

That conversation sparked an idea that became “Analogy/Dora: Tramontane,” a dance co-commissioned by Dancers’ Workshop and based on the story of Dora Amelan, Jones’ partner’s mother, and also a Holocaust survivor.

The Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Dance Company will perform the piece this week as part of its residency at Dancers’ Workshop.

The piece is extremely physical and Jones uses spoken word, movement, music and an interactive set, said Babs Case, artistic director of Dancers’ Workshop.

“There is this whole range of emotions,” Case said. “It’s fun. It’s poignant. It’s horrifying. It’s everything. It’s just really rich and beautiful.”

The piece was co-commissioned by Dancers’ Workshop. Last year, Dancers’ Workshop provided rehearsal space and time for the company to work. The residency includes public performances, open rehearsals and master classes. Jones will conduct a question and answer session at the end of each of the open rehearsals and performances.

Jones interviewed Amelan about her time working as a nurse and social worker in a detention camp in occupied France. Movement, along with the words, draws people into her story and conveys the connections she felt with the people she tried to help.

“This particular work is very emotionally charged and intense and that’s new territory for Bill,” Case said.

The dialogue, spoken by the dancers, comes from the interviews with Amelan. Jones uses text, movement, music and an interactive set to tell her story of survival.

The piece is clearly about World War II and the persecution of people, but Jones approached it in a new way, Case said.

“It is a piece that is creatively constructed around the story of one extraordinary individual’s experience at the time,” Case said. “It’s completely refreshing. It’s work that should be seen.”

While Jones has used spoken word in his performances, this is the first time he’s challenged the dancers to speak. The piece is a multi-disciplinary hybrid work, Jones said. It is set to music he calls “prismatic.”

Composer Nick Hallet created the original score using the text and music of the time for inspiration. The music is introspective, Jones said, and meant to ask the questions Amelan faced, “What happened here in this life? What happens next?”

It also includes other genres, like French pop music, that Amelan at 19, would have loved when she went dancing.

While the piece is “rigorous,” it is also accessible for those without experience viewing modern dance, Jones said.

It has been a busy summer for Dancers’ Workshop. Only a few weeks ago the New York City Ballet was in town. Case purposefully brought in two companies on different ends of the dance spectrum. While New York City Ballet is known as the best in the classical ballet world, Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane is considered elite in the modern dance world.

“They are both world class companies and doing extraordinary work,” Case said.

“Analogy/Dora: Tramontane” runs 80 minutes without an intermission. There is no late seating. The premiere performance on Friday costs $100 and includes a chance to meet the dancers. Jones will participate in a question and answer with the audience after each performance.

Dancers’ Workshop also partnered with the Jackson Hole Jewish Community and humanities scholar Matt Daly to explore the themes of the dance through writing and visual art. The exhibition hangs in the Center Theater Gallery Friday through Aug. 27. PJH

Residency schedule

Master classes, 6 to 7:30, Wednesday; 10 to 11:30 a.m., Thursday, Dancers’ Workshop, $25 per class

Open rehearsals

5 to 6 p.m., Wednesday; noon to 1 p.m., Thursday, free


Meet the artists, 6 p.m.; Performance, 8 p.m., Friday, Center Theater, $100 all seats, $25 students and 8 p.m., Saturday, Center Theater, $25-$65

Art opening

“Human/King: Episodes,” 6 p.m., Friday, Center Theater Gallery, free

About Kelsey Dayton

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