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Saturday May 27, 2017
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Bill T. Jones

 

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performed in Ann Arbor. The artistic support that Jones and so many other world-class choreographers found at the University of Iowa resulted from the far-reaching vision of its former performing arts administrator — since lured away to be the big-picture guy at the American Ballet Theater — and Coleman's unflagging commitment to the arts during her tenure as president.

Jones's projects are often identified with the biographical (The Breathing Show) and the provocative (Still/Here), but his new work is notable for the absence of polemics and of overt personal references. Traveling with the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center and featuring the Orion String Quartet, the company is also superbly accompanied by live music, an element sorely missing from most theatrical dance these days.

Verbum opens both of the company's slightly varied programs. From half handstands with little beats to the simple expressiveness of a bent elbow, Jones's dancers manifestly assert every part of their bodies with bouncy inventiveness. Each step and section effortlessly leads to the next. A mostly back-to-the-audience solo takes authoritative command of the stage with a soigné flow and spiky elegance characteristic of Jones's dance-making style. Three squiggly standing frames, designed by artist and longtime Jones collaborator Bjorn G. Amelan, shape the elastic tenor of the movement as the dancers shadow the Beethoven score (String Quartet in F Major, op. 135).

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