Stories To Tell

UCSB Arts & Lectures and the Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Company have had a long relationship going back decades. During their frequent visits to Santa Barbara, the company does workshops and Bill T. Jones personally engages with students, faulty and members of the community. The residency culminates in a beautifully staged and thought-provoking work of theater and dance for the community at large. This year, the focus was on a recent and seminal piece titled “Story/Time,” featuring Bill T. Jones onstage with his dancers. Inspired by composer John Cage’s “Interdeterminacy,” it combines 70 1 minute stories written and read by Mr. Jones, about his personal history, while dancers swirl and pose around him. The guiding principle of the work is “chance procedure,” a fitting tribute to Mr. Cage’s affinity for the unexpected and random, with a nod to the I-Ching. The dancing and the live electronic score by Ted Coffey, Ph. D. are improvised for each of the 70 stories, so that every performance is different. Any dissonances caused by elements not always being synchronized is supposed to allow room for the audience to determine the meaning of what is happening on the stage. A bit hit and miss, but that’s intentional. Associate artistic director Janet Wong conducted a fascinating and fun master class for UCSB Theater & Dance dept. students, immersing them in the method for using chance procedure in choreography. The results were quite remarkable as they went from improvising 8 static poses followed by exploring different ways to move or dance between them, and then did it while listening to one of Mr. Jones’s 1 minute stories. There were numerous “aha” moments when everything coalesced in a surprising way. The final part of the residency was Mr. Jones participating in a seminar/conversation with theater students and faculty on the nature and purpose of art, and the realities of the relationships between artists, patrons and society in general.