BWW Dance Review: ANALOGY/TRILOGY at Eisenhower Theater, Kennedy Center
A nephew's story told in powerful movement
The second section of Bill T. Jones' Analogy/Trilogy, Lance: aka Pretty the Escape Artist, uses sound design, collage, projection, samples, a score by Nick Hallett, and quotations from Jones' conversations with his nephew Lance T. Briggs along with Jones' choreography to abstract Briggs' biography into this engrossing theatre piece. Jones shares choreography credits with his original cast. The strength of the dancers and the dancing surpasses every other element. The nine performers create scenes and episodes from Briggs' life: his audition for the San Francisco ballet as an 8 year old boy; his various cabarets and drag performances in New York and across Europe; his performance as a "working girl" in The Castro.
Anecdotes from Lance Briggs' private life fit between the parts of his public story. Briggs, who calls himself "Pretty" in some of his roles and phases, deals and uses drugs, snatches a purse to pay for them, and winds up in prison. Throughout the 75 minute production, the troupe dances all of this while taking turns speaking or singing parts of the oral history, changing costumes, and setting up and striking scenic elements.
Jones and company find eloquent movement for every aspect of his nephew's struggle. When Lance becomes immobilized by nerve pain that seems not to derive from his HIV status, Jones creates the choreographic equivalent of negative space. When Pretty, whose prison name was "pretty boy gangster thug," falls in love with a fellow inmate, the men dance a pas de deux, the most beautiful section in the whole piece. When Lance faces hospice care, his uncle encourages him over the phone to express himself in a medium that doesn't require the use of his legs. Having Bill T. Jones as one's uncle and mentor must be an out of body experience anyway, so Lance, who does write some of the very songs in this production, turns out both Pretty and lucky.
Liz Prince costumes the performers in mostly white street clothes-hoodies and jeans and a hospital gown. But colorful pieces pop in and out when the action shifts to clubs and stages in Harlem or Paris. Lance's white, iridescent "Grace Jones" shorts and hoodie garment stands out. Pretty wears the red shoes (they're actually socks) during the more prancy portions of her life. Lance sometimes goes barefoot, and the contrast counts.
Jones' reasons for not assigning the cast the names of characters undoubtedly stem from his strong and understandable belief in the power of ensemble work. One dancer stands out in the role of Lance T. Briggs aka Pretty, but he isn't named.
The final performance of Analogy/Trilogy by the Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Company takes place in the Kennedy Center's Eisenhower Theatre Saturday evening, March 30; for tickets go to http://www.kennedy-center.org/calendar/genre/DAN.