What arrested my attention was how the growing distance between gesture and its spoken description leads to a performable piece. Let’s let Bill T. Jones explain as he has with Peggy Gillespie in Last Night on Earth.
I began to make solo works drawing upon my mother’s and father’s penchant for narration […] My mother’s praying was the first theater I ever saw […] In the first part of the dance, I repeated an improvised gesture until it was set — mastered. then I began to describe my movements as I performed them. Through repetition, the gesture and its spoken description slowly changed. I relished these changes — exaggerated them, in fact, until the movement and its description were related by only the freest association. While performing this evolutionary piece, I found that I entered a trancelike state [… described by critic Arlene Croce as a tizzy …] This “tizzy” is something I have claimed as an inheritance. Perhaps in her experience it did not seem genuine, or perhaps it seemed too genuine — embarrassing, even — but for me it is an integral part of the strategy that allows me to make art.
In the forward to the book, Bill T. Jones thanks Peggy Gillespie for “her masterful blend of focussed passion and tactful prodding”. It is a description that is also suited to his style.
And so for day 816