Using choreography and dance to visualize the human condition is one of the hallmarks of the work Bill T. Jones, a highly awarded artist whose credits include Tony Awards, The National Medal of Arts, and a MacArthur Fellowship. His interpretation of humanity and society, expressed through movement and modern dance, has brought him international and critical acclaim for several decades.
His company, the Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Dance Company, has been presenting new, original work since its inception in 1982. Jones and his dancers will present his most recent work, What Problem?, on November 15 at the Granada Theater, as part of the UCSB Arts & Lectures’ dance series and Justice for All programming initiative.
What Problem? is an intimate dance narrative that uses excerpts from literature and history, including the work of W.E.B. Du Bois, Martin Luther King’s “I have a Dream” speech, and Herman Melville’s Moby Dick. Jones says he composed this dance odyssey to express the loneliness of “being looked at but never seen.” It’s also an exploration of “What does it mean to be a member of a ‘we’?”
In his consideration of these classic texts, Jones explores the character of Pip, a young boy working on the Pequod in Moby Dick. Pip falls overboard but is rescued by the whalers; the trauma of the experience, though, has changed him. Is he mad or a truth teller? Jones asks of the character, making parallels between the young boy and the nature of the artist in society. “Art making,” says Jones, “is participation in the world of ideas.”
Beyond unique and powerful choreography, What Problem? features live music (which Jones describes as eclectic, including madrigal-level harmonies and references to Black church), and performances by local community members, making this program absolutely one-of-a-kind. For more information or to purchase tickets, visit artsandlectures.ucsb.edu.