LEGENDARY CHOREOGRAPHER BILL T. JONES CREATES COMMUNITY WITH LOCAL PARTICIPANTS IN LATEST WORK, WHAT PROBLEM?, AT MEANY CENTER
BILL T. JONES JOINS MEANY CENTER AS AN ARTISTIC ASSOCIATE, A ONE-YEAR POSITION CENTERING BIPOC CURATORIAL VOICES
RESIDENCY FOR WHAT PROBLEM? INCLUDES A COMMUNITY CONVERSATION WITH BILL T. JONES AT LANGSTON
SEATTLE, WA — The Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Company returns to Meany Center for the Performing Arts with it’s latest work What Problem? from March 24–26, 2022 at 8 p.m. In What Problem?, Jones, a two-time Tony Award winner (FELA! and Spring Awakening), choreographer, dancer, theater director and writer, invites the public into his creative process for a provocative and thoughtful meditation on the tension between belonging to a community and feelings of isolation in divisive times. The performances are the culmination of a week-long artistic residency that includes Seattle-area community members and a town hall conversation at LANGSTON.
The residency is the beginning of a new artistic relationship between Bill T. Jones and Meany Center. Jones has recently been named the Center’s Artistic Associate, a one-year position that invites leading artists to work within the organization, bringing fresh new perspectives and creative programming ideas. Jones is in the process of creating a new series for the 2022–23 Season that will feature 4 to 6 productions curated in collaboration with Meany Center’s Artistic and Executive Director Michelle Witt. The new series will be announced in June.
“We are thrilled to have such a towering figure as Bill T. Jones launch this important pilot initiative here at the University of Washington,” says Michelle Witt. “The benefits for artists, for Meany Center and for the University are meaningful: BIPOC and underrepresented artists are empowered by having a participatory voice at Meany. New collaborative voices keep Meany Center Visiting Artists’ programming and engagement relevant. Artists will be in dialogue with partners on and off campus, activating learning and connections with students, faculty and community.”
For the production of What Problem?, up to 30 community members will participate in the performance, including University of Washington students and alumni. During the Company’s residency, participants will join Bill T. Jones, along with the company’s associate artistic director Janet Wong and members of the Company in rehearsal to create collaborative and personalized content to be performed in What Problem? Participants will include dancers and non-dancers alike coming together to create their own unique community onstage.
The performances include three thought-provoking sections: Jones in solo performance; Jones alongside members of the Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Company; and, in conclusion, Jones and the company onstage with the local community members.
What Problem? has been adapted for the proscenium stage from Bill T. Jones’ massive work Deep Blue Sea (2020). Text deconstructed from Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech, The Souls of Black Folk by W.E.B. Du Bois, “Never Catch Me” by Kendrick Lamar and Herman Melville’s Moby Dick serve as the basis for the spoken text Jones delivers as a performer in the work. The multilayered score is by composer and vocalist Nick Hallett.
“For the problem of the Twentieth Century is the problem of the color-line…the relation of the darker to the lighter races of men…And yet, being a problem is a strange experience — peculiar even for one who has never been anything else.” — W.E.B. Du Bois, The Souls of Black Folk (1903)
“I have long accepted Dr. King’s immortal words ‘We Shall Overcome’ mixed with the scripture of our democracy as formed and shaped by we the people,” says Bill T. Jones. “And yet there’s always been an uneasy recognition of the truth at the base of the great W.E.B. Du Bois statement concerning ‘the Problem.’ The ‘Color Line’ for Du Bois represented the epitome of otherness, yet we now understand this is much more complex. In our fractious era, I am compelled to elaborate on this ‘line’ in terms of sexual politics, gender identity, class struggles and especially at this moment in time, immigration.”
“These ideas collide in my mind and my creative self like tectonic plates. Tectonic activity creates land formations, volcanic eruptions and rearranging of whole continents. What Problem? is the latest result of this social/political/spiritual grinding and reformation. Are you a problem? And what does it mean to be a problem? All of my work is in pursuit of the ‘we.’ What Problem? is the notion of WE THE PEOPLE.”
Tickets for What Problem? are on sale now at https://meanycenter.org/tickets/2022-03/production/bill-t-jonesarnie-zane-company, with ticket prices ranging from $58–$70. Discounts are available for students, youths, seniors, UW Alumni and veterans.
The public is invited to attend a Community Conversation with Bill T. Jones: Is there a “We”? at LANGSTON, https://www.langstonseattle.org/ Tuesday, March 22, 2022 at 4 p.m. Jones, along with a panel of invited guests and attendees, will explore the importance of community and belonging, and the notion of collective redemption in a conversation moderated by veteran arts producer and civic advocate Vivian Phillips. Participants will be encouraged to bring their ideas and questions about what makes a community strong, and to explore what responsibilities we have to one another. Admission is free, but reservations are requested here.
All Meany Center staff, artists and participants in the production are vaccinated. For audience members, Meany Center requires proof of vaccination or a negative provider-administered COVID-19 test taken within 72 hours of the performance for admission. Masks are required at all times in Meany Hall. For up-to-date information and details, see https://meanycenter.org/visit/covid-safety
ABOUT BILL T. JONES
Artistic Director, Co-Founder and Choreographer, Bill T. Jones is recipient of the 2014 Doris Duke Performing Artist Award; 2013 National Medal of Arts; 2010 Kennedy Center Honors; a 2010 Tony Award for Best Choreography of the critically acclaimed Fela!; a 2007 Tony Award, 2007 Obie Award, and 2006 Stage Directors and Choreographers Foundation Callaway Award for his choreography for Spring Awakening; the 2010 Jacob’s Pillow Dance Award; 2007 USA Eileen Harris Norton Fellowship; 2006 Lucille Lortel Award for Outstanding Choreography for The Seven; 2005 Wexner Prize; the 2005 Samuel H. Scripps American Dance Festival Award for Lifetime Achievement; 2005 Harlem Renaissance Award; 2003 Dorothy and Lillian Gish Prize; and a 1994 MacArthur “Genius” Award. In 2010, Jones was recognized as Officier de l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres by the French government, and in 2000, The Dance Heritage Coalition named Jones “An Irreplaceable Dance Treasure.”
Jones choreographed and performed worldwide with his late partner, Arnie Zane, before forming the Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Dance Company in 1982. He has created more than 140 works for his company. Jones is Artistic Director of New York Live Arts, an organization that strives to create a robust framework in support of the nation’s dance and movement-based artists through new approaches to producing, presenting, and educating.
ABOUT BILL T. JONES/ARNIE ZANE COMPANY
Over the past 40 years the Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Company has shaped the evolution of contemporary dance through the creation and performance of over 140 works. Founded as a multicultural dance company in 1982, the company was born of an 11-year artistic collaboration between Bill T. Jones and Arnie Zane. Today, the company is recognized as one of the most innovative and powerful forces in the modern dance world. The company has performed its ever-enlarging repertoire worldwide in over 200 cities in 40 countries on every major continent. In 2011, the Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Company merged with Dance Theater Workshop to form New York Live Arts of which Bill T. Jones is the Artistic Director and Janet Wong is the Associate Artistic Director.
The repertory of the Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Company is widely varied in its subject matter, visual imagery and stylistic approach to movement, voice and stagecraft and includes musically driven works as well as works using a variety of texts. Some of its most celebrated creations are evening length works including Last Supper at Uncle Tom’s Cabin/The Promised Land (1990); Still/Here (1994); We Set Out Early… Visibility Was Poor (1996); You Walk? (2000); Blind Date (2006); Chapel/Chapter (2006); Fondly Do We Hope… Fervently Do We Pray (2009); Another Evening: Venice/Arsenale (2010); Story/Time (2012); A Rite (2013; Deep Blue Sea (2021).
ABOUT NEW YORK LIVE ARTS
Home of Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Company (BTJ/AZ), Live Arts is a commissioning and presenting center of diverse artists notable for their conceptual rigor, formal experimentation and active engagement with the sociocultural currents of our time. Artists at all stages of their careers are supported through residencies, commissions and artist services. Located in the heart of Chelsea in New York City, New York Live Arts is an internationally recognized destination for innovative movement-based artistry offering audiences access to art and artists notable for their conceptual rigor, formal experimentation and active engagement with the social, political and cultural currents of our times. At the center of its identity is Bill T. Jones, world-renowned choreographer, dancer, theater director and writer. New York Live Arts serves as the home base for the Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Company and is the company’s sole producer, providing support and the environment to originate innovation and challenging new work for the company and the NYC creative community. New York Live Arts produces and presents dance, music and theater performances in its 20,000 square foot home, which include a 184-seat theater and two 1,200 square foot studios that can be combined into one large studio. New York Live Arts offers an extensive range of participatory programs for adults and young people and supports the continuing professional development of artists and commissions. https://newyorklivearts.org/
ABOUT MEANY CENTER FOR THE PERFORMING ARTS
Meany Center for the Performing Arts at the University of Washington fosters innovative performances that advance public engagement, cultural exchange, creative research and learning through the arts. Meany Center provides opportunities for diverse artists, community, students and faculty to connect in the discovery and exploration of the boundless power of the arts to create positive change in the world.