Home & + | Search
Featured Categories: Special Focus | Performance Reviews | Previews | DanceSpots | Arts and Education | Press Releases
Join ExploreDance.com's email list | Mission Statement | Copyright notice | The Store | Calendar | User survey | Advertise
Click here to take the ExploreDance.com user survey.
Your anonymous feedback will help us continue to bring you coverage of more dance.
SPOTLIGHT:
PERFORMANCE REVIEWS
ExploreDance.com is sponsored by
ExploreDance.com iPad Edition

New!
Read ExploreDance.com on your iPad!
Only $0.99 per issue! No ads!
www.exploredance.com/subscribe.htm
ExploreDance.com (Magazine)
Web
Other Search Options
Sarah Hart
Performance Reviews
Modern/Contemporary
Brooklyn Academy of Music
United States
New York City
New York
Brooklyn, NY
ExploreDance.com is sponsored by
******* ** **
exploredance.com
ExploreDance.com is sponsored by
ExploreDance.com Kickstarter Campaign

The ExploreDance.com Kickstarter campaign is live! Please consider backing our campaign to help us expand our coverage of dance.
www.kickstarter.com/projects/1306220552/exploredancecom

A Quarrelling Pair by Bill T Jones

by Sarah Hart
October 4, 2008
Brooklyn Academy of Music
30 Lafayette Ave
Brooklyn, NY 11217
(718) 636-4111
A Quarrelling Pair, the latest performance by the Bill T. Jones / Arnie Zane Company, staged recently at the Brooklyn Academy of Music, is about relationships. Specifically, it is about relationships that have come to be defined by equal measures by affection and frustration, love and resentment, tenderness and cruelty. It is a sumptuous visual essay, laying bare the nuances of attachment when sentiments between two people are so tangled and so barbed that movement of any sort serves only to tighten the painful knots.

The relationship in question is between two aging sisters (played variously by Leah Cox, Paul Matteson and, in a particularly touching performance, Tracy Ann Johnson) who live together in house divided into their respective halves by a red string. One sister, Miss Harriett, has "the gift of contentment." She keeps her side tidy, she likes her milk before bed, and has long since decided that "what happens inside people's heads is not so very interesting." She chides her sister, Miss Rhoda, for not sufficiently enjoying the blessings of her existence. Rhoda, small and possessed of a charmingly rusty voice, is all impracticality. She touches her chest and tries to explain that it is her big heart, her too-big heart, which suffers such yearnings for the wild world outside. A big heart is useless and self indulgent, snaps Harriett. With a big heart one stirs restlessness and anxiety. It is with a small heart that one achieves harmony. Rhoda concedes the impeccable reasoning of Harriett's argument and yet one day, surrendering to the impulses of her great big heart, she breaks away. She leaves.

Her subsequent adventures play out in a series of vaudevillian skits—riotous, bawdy and, sometimes, sordid and violent. Hers is the archetypal journey of a Naïve who embarks on a voyage, endures trials and tribulations wherein the world as was known is revealed to be something quite different, and emerges mature and transformed. In Miss Rhoda's case this involves cross-country travel, an attempt at a singing career (which she botches because she cannot resist answering inconveniently-timed cell phone calls from Harriett and thus gets booted off stage) and a job as a backstage assistant for a foul-tempered cross dresser in Mexico (played with great energy by Erick Montes).

The brilliance of A Quarrelling Pair is in the poignant use of metaphor to convey meaning. Very few of the dances are solos. In most, two dancers move together—pushing, pulling, lifting, and pressing each other down. The move of any one is incomplete without the opposition or assistance of another. The original Quarrelling Pair was a short play written by Jane Bowles and intended for puppets. In Bill T. Jones's version Harriett and Rhoda often appear silhouetted like cut-out puppets and in many scenes the dancers move like marionettes—lifting at odd angles, stiff-limbed, and liable to collapse suddenly at the joints. These techniques reinforce the theme of vulnerability and attachment.

We, the audience, are a pivotal part of the performance in a most discomfiting way. The multi-talented George Lewis, Jr. not only plays guitar and saxophone in the three-man live band, but introduces each vaudeville-like scene with a direct address to the audience. Boos, cheers, and the occasional inappropriate comment boom from speakers in the back of the theater and Lewis responds accommodatingly. Thus that hypothetical fourth wall which shields the audience in innocent invisibility from the activity on stage is shattered and we must grudgingly accept our status as the paying crowd responsible, in part, for some of Rhoda's woes. This forwards Jones's point that world is only insofar as far as it is perceived to be. One person's safe haven is another's cage. One person's trauma is another's amusement.

Video is used to great effect. Rhoda's travels are shown as grainy black and white landscape images that flicker past on a wide screen. A slow transformation of foliage color indicates the passage of time while, perfectly coiffed and all alone, Harriett waits in vain for her sister's return. Especially effective is the footage of Rhoda "backstage" getting savagely abused by a performer who we see onstage a moment later the perfect image of coquettish glamour and coy solicitation.

Out in the world she yearned for so much Miss Rhoda experiences grief and loneliness but, ultimately, realizes an exhilarating freedom. "When are you coming home?" Harriett asks. "Never…never…" says Rhoda, and her voice is both sad and sure. Her big heart's fulfillment is represented by the haunting and gorgeous image of a galloping horse and in a swirling dance by the whole company to Bob Dylan's "A Hard Rain's A-Gonna Fall."

Jones's message is not subtle: liberation is a wretched journey, but to not follow one's heart is to condemn the soul to suffocation. Jones first read Bowles's play in 1992. His rendition, produced some fifteen years later, suggests a deep understanding of the subject matter. The treatment is not just technically remarkable and breathtakingly beautiful, but also provokingly insightful and profoundly empathetic.
Bill T Jones' A Quarreling Pair

Bill T Jones' A Quarreling Pair

Photo © & courtesy of Stephanie Berger


Bill T Jones' A Quarreling Pair

Bill T Jones' A Quarreling Pair

Photo © & courtesy of Stephanie Berger


Bill T Jones' A Quarreling Pair

Bill T Jones' A Quarreling Pair

Photo © & courtesy of Stephanie Berger


Bill T Jones' A Quarreling Pair

Bill T Jones' A Quarreling Pair

Photo © & courtesy of Stephanie Berger


Bill T Jones' A Quarreling Pair

Bill T Jones' A Quarreling Pair

Photo © & courtesy of Stephanie Berger

ExploreDance.com is sponsored by
* **** ****


ExploreDance.com
ExploreDance.com is sponsored by
******* ******
exploredance.com


home || view our calendar || the store || copyright information || join our mailing list || mission statement
Search for articles by
Performance Reviews, Places to Dance, Fashion, Photography, Auditions, Politics, Health