Formulaic performance lacks crowd interaction

Bill T. Jones follows just the right formula in his latest work, complete with technical tricks and dramatic details. But the highlights of his show occur when the rules are broken.

“We Set Out Early … Visibility Was Poor” is Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Dance Company’s first full-length work since the celebrated “Still/Here” in 1994. While “Still/Here” is based on his personal experience of dealing with a terminal disease and evoked a range of emotions, “We Set Out Early” distances the audience with its use of abstract movements and objects.

“We Set Out Early” feeds the audience images, rather than engaging it in a thought-provoking journey. The three sections of the performance are marked by changes in music, lighting and set construction. They consist of dancers interacting in various spatial relationships.

The work is anti-climactic. No change or sense of transformation takes place after the interactions occur.

Although the performance lacks audience interaction, it had its high points.

The 10 members of the company, who vary in size, shape, skin color and style, coalesce into a unified body of differences. The range in personalities is heightened by costume choices and adds color and playfulness to the piece.

In one section, Germaul Yusef Barnes partners with Miguel Anaya, performing a fast and flamboyant pas de deux downstage center. Later, Josie Coyoc throws herself into the arms of Barnes and repeatedly is pulled away, as if someone is pressing the rewind button.

It is moments like these that shake up the formula of the choreography and catch the audience by surprise.

In “Voiceland,” the audience again is pleasantly surprised when the dancers begin to speak quickly and urgently, but without sound.

Though slick and proficiently technical, the choreography is uninspiring in its obvious attempt to be open to interpretations.

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