Bill T. Jones and Anne Bogart’s ‘A Rite’ at Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center by Carolyn Kelemen

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Just when you think there’s nothing new under the sun, leave it to MacArthur Genius award-winner Bill T. Jones to find a new outlet for his creative talents. And a new term, “dacting,” dance and acting, as seen in his latest collaboration, A Rite, at the Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center on the University of Maryland College Park campus. Together with Anne Bogart, Artistic Director of SITI Company, and Janet Wong, Associate Artistic Director, Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Dance, Jones has erased the lines between music, acting and dance. Actors are dancing; dancers are singing. And the audience is mesmerized.

 'A Rite.' Photo by Paul B. Goode.
‘A Rite.’ Photo by Paul B. Goode.

Jones has been exhilarating us with his audacious, eloquent and dramatic works since he founded his multicultural dance company in 1982, a collaborative effort with his late partner Arnie Zane. It was in the early ‘Anne Bogart when this writer first encountered the brilliance of the two men, during a master class at the University of Maryland’s old dance gym. The image of Arnie (about half the size of Bill T.) lifting his partner high above his head still lingers in my mind – those two demonstrated a unique spirit of dance that has never been duplicated.

So it was sort of a homecoming last night listening to Bill T. Jones talk about his latest collaboration in a post-show discussion between the artists and the audience. In 2011, the Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Dance Company merged with Dance Theater Workshop to form New York Live Arts. For 30 years, Jones has brought social issues into the dance arena, now he’s sharing them with actors and giving them a blast of freshness.

This time around the theme evolves the scandalous 1913 Le Sacre du Printemps (Rite of Spring) that caused a riot in Paris. Choreographed by Nijinsky to the original pounding score of Stravinsky, Jones and his collaborative team have taken a new look at the work, specifically at the music, rather than the steps. “We have – for the most part – tried to look past the libretto and engage the music and the 100-year-old discourse around it with as fresh and personal an approach as possible,” notes Jones.

But oh how these dancers can tell a story! Carrying black stools back and forth, carefully placing them so the dancers don’t fall, the 15-member ensemble moved effortlessly about the stage, sensitively lit by Robert Wierzel. It’s enjoyable to watch the tiny blonde with her cropped hair and the sexy redhead bouncing about and fearlessly jumping on the guys (dancers and actors). One male actor/dancer pops up throughout the hour-long piece as if he were Nijinsky, himself, dancing the final sacrifice.

'A Rite.' Photo by Paul B. Goode.
‘A Rite.’ Photo by Paul B. Goode.

Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Dance Company and SITI Company performs A Rite TONIGHT at 8 p.m. in the Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center’s The Ina & Jack Kay Theatre – University Blvd. & Stadium Drive, in College Park, MD. For tickets, purchase them online.

Running Time: Approximately 65 minutes, with no intermission.