Friday, August 14, 2009

Interview with Bill T. Jones

Bill T. Jones remembers Merce Cunningham in this NPR interview. I think it's interesting that Mr. Jones calls today's audiences "conservative." He said, "they want to know what they're supposed to be seeing, they want to know what the meaning of it is, and they like a beginning, a middle and an end. All things that Cunningham threw out the window." I usually call that type of dance "accessible." I mean, it makes sense to me that if you are creating for a non-dancer audience (who the audience is for contemporary dance is a really interesting question in and of itself) they prefer to see more traditional dance structure with narrative etc. I remember talking to my mom about a performance I'd seen at ADF by thingsezisee'm dance/theatre back in 1998 (yep, I was there waaay back when) where in one section the dancers were very still for
long periods while there was projection and music going on around them and my mom said "but I don't MOVE, so that's what I want to see people do!"

So obviously what dancers and non-dancers want to get out of a performance is very different and I think part of the audience problem is not being able to accommodate that fact. As a dancer, what Cunningham did was awesome because of the process he used (or didn't use), but I'm not sure that comes across to non-dancers. So the answer is to educate non-dancers, dance appreciation courses somehow, but people have to be interested enough in dance to begin with to want to sign up for something like that. Maybe TV shows about dance create that interest? Any thoughts on other ways, not even to get people to shows necessarily, but to just get them interested enough to want to learn about dance?


  1. I think you're observations are quite timely given Kathleen's recent post. This is the foundation of a worthwhile dialogue. I'm interested in learning more and furthering the discussion.

  2. CLAIRE: Maybe TV shows about dance create that interest?

    Fox’s “So You Think You Can Dance” is an excellent example of creating interest.

    And yes, I think we can all dance...

    I have rambled a little about the idea of tv dance and what it makes me ask...

    “Record-breaking 21.6 million votes cast”

    SERIOUSLY, to have that many Americans interested in dance is something to be excited about. To have quality dancers on television is enough to get people to sit and watch. Wow, who knew?

    TV is easy; you turn it on, flip the channel and watch in the comfort of your home.

    These same people will hopefully chat with family, friends and co-workers the same way they discuss sitcoms or other reality shows.

    “Did you see Mia Michaels’ duet for Jeanine and Kayla with the layers and their journey and Steve Reich’s music and I want to be in that piece… ” Okay, maybe that conversation is for Corian (dancer friend) and me…

    BUT number one, people do watch the show and number two, they talk about what they liked ("that was cool") and disliked ("I don't get it, that was weird"). That is a starting point but is it our entry point?

    On a more personal note, my mom loves dance and of course she loves to watch me dance. But what I find interesting is when she has dinner with the ladies every Wednesday, they are sure to be out of the restaurant in time to make it home to watch “So You Think You Can Dance” and of course the all-of-our-moms’-favorite ABC’s “Dancing with the Stars.”

    My mom and her friends come to see me dance but can we get that same audience to go see "Not-Mary Jane" dance?

    But I have to say I’m pretty psyched that people are watching dance whether it is “So You Think You Can Dance,” “Dancing with the Stars” or “America’s Best Dance Crew” on television.

    Obviously, we need to take this audience out of their comfortable home and get them to live performances. How?

    Not sure, but let’s get beyond psyched and get these people to live performances… My favorite ways to get them is to find common ground, use unconventional spaces and keep it informal.

    Show or tell me more ways...