Q&A with Associate Artistic Director of the Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Dance Company: Janet Wong

How does the Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Dance Company encourage art and ideas within the community of education?

Bill says that making art allows him to participate in the world of ideas – and it is important to Bill and all of us in the Company to share that process with the education community. We don’t just teach master classes and set work on students; our education philosophy extends simply learning choreography. We want students to grasp the choreographer's intentions and interests; understand the social/political context if applicable; learn how the material was generated and developed. In the end, we hope this enables students to perform the work from a deeper place while inspiring them to develop their own art and ideas.

Our theme this year is "Across Borders, Beyond Time". How does the performance Body Against Body fit into this theme?
Body Against Body includes two early, seminal duets by Bill and Arnie: Monkey Run Road (1979) and Blauvelt Mountain (A Fiction) (1980). These two pieces were their signature works - imbued with their formal artistic concerns, the world around them, and the life they shared - and were created before the Company was formed. In my opinion, these works transcend the limits of time and taste. The rigor and craft of the form and content prevent them from being stylized and narcissistic; they take on new life with each set of performers. They demand that the performers give not only their skilled artistry but also that personal and sometimes nebulous, subconscious space so they may enter that place between performance and life.

The Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Dance Company was born based on a series of collaborations. Why is it so important to collaborate within the artist community?

I believe that the Company was born out of Bill and Arnie's desire to have a "child" when the world was saying they could not, and to create a Company that looked like the world that they wanted to live in. Their early visions informed the Company’s commitment to artistic collaboration and our ongoing work with artists across disciplines - visual artists, designers, composers, musicians, etc. Drawing on the expertise and talent of other artists enhances our own work as dancers and choreographers. Each person's contribution informs and influences another.
On his blog, Bill T. Jones commented, “With each work we make, with each appearance on stage and in the media, we are - willing or not - engaged in the game or task of influence.” Who and what is it that you wish you influence with the performance of Serenade/The Proposition?
I hope audience members see Serenade not merely as a rumination on history and the legacy of Abraham Lincoln, but also as a reminder that we are the authors of our own stories…