The microcosm which Bill T. Jones has created in his 11-member dance company mirrors our global world. Their performance of Blind Date presented at the Sottile Theatre is essentially about this small world and its humanity, but there are other issues too like patriotism, tolerance, security, and religion. The work is heavy with meaning presenting a lot to digest both mentally and visually, but the there is no doubt about it that it works as a production whether you like the message or not. The thread of Jones themes is strong throughout, and even with the barrage of images, screens, text, throat singing, and a ridiculous duck head, there is no shortage of brilliantly crafted dance sequences and potent theatrical performances.
The set design by Bjorn G. Amalan and the video design by Peter Niigrini work very well as an effective layer of the work. Text in different languages pertains to warfare and religious tolerance. Photographs of people who are young and old, known and unknown and are affected by these situations continue throughout the piece. Footage of the individual dancers introduces them to us. There is Asli Bulbul from Turkey, Maija Garcia from Cuba, and Wen-Chung Lin from Taiwan. The rest of the talented group comes from various part of this country.
The other visual component is a brilliant light design by Robert Weierzel, which gives a sleek polish to all that happens on stage. Cleaver costuming by Liz Prince doesnt distract but subtly changes in design and color.
The commanding presence of Jones is like an MC as he weaves a web around the stage speaking like a well trained actor, singing well especially in a moving sequence with an Irish folk song telling of a mothers sorrow when her maimed son returns from war.
The dancers are also multi talented as they act, sing, and dance with exceptional talent. The movement is compelling to watch with sequences that are smooth as silk. Impressive lines and shapes, dynamic floor work and exciting and, as usual, untraditional partner work is the strongest component in the work. The dancers exude focus and energy and their performances are outstanding.
Some dance on their hands, others rise and fall as if they have no skeletons. There is a very effective sequence where the dancers walk in different floor pattern and one arbitrarily yells Me! and proceeds to free fall while the others rush to catch them before they hit the floor. This may remind one of victims of war who are falling every day or the support needed in a community if someone requires it. As the group gets smaller the game becomes more dangerous. And the last image is Jones falling alone without the hope of being caught.
At one time we hear the story of Richard who at 16 gets a job selling burgers wearing a big yellow duck head that also gets him enlisted in the war. A warfare sequence ensues and the symbol of the sitting duck gets assaulted and distorted. Here chaos begins.
The evening is a tad long but an intermission would ruin the flow of it. In a well-attended talk back, Jones spoke openly and willingly to questions asked. He is arrestingly fluent not only in his physical language but in the spoken word. He feels strongly about the state of the world and is obliged as an artist to respond to it. He says that the title refers to the unknown we face or our blind date is with our future.Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Dance Co. Blind Date June 3 at 8 p.m. Sottile Theatre 579-3100