The American Dance Festival closed its 84th season and celebratory 40th year in Durham with the final installment of Bill T. Jones and collaborators’ Analogy: A Trilogy on July 30 in the Durham Performing Arts Center. The two previous segments were performed, individually, on the two previous nights, so that at last we could see the whole shape of Jones’ idea.
Analogy/Ambros: The Emigrant was one of the most obscure pieces of performance art I’ve ever seen. Even though its structure was similar to that of the previous segments, especially the first, Dora: Tramontane, and even though there was a thread of connection to the second, Lance: Pretty AKA the Escape Artist, formed by a common reference to legs that no longer work, Ambros remained baffling throughout.
The text (which has a dominant role here) comes from a section of W.G. Sebald’s book, The Emigrants, and much of it is very fine. But divorced from its larger literary context, the story bits (back and forth in time) barely made sense, let alone a point.
Bjorn Amelan’s decor, with dancer-moved panels in frequent re-arrangement, echoed that of Dora–but the panels here just seemed mainly to point up how little real action there was. And the transitions between bits were awfully slow.
Yes, I’m really going to say it: I nodded off a couple of times during the piece.
The music, by composed by Nick Hallett, and performed by him and Emily Manzo, was the best part of the evening. Mixing recorded tracks with live sound, it was often very beautiful, rich in tone and texture, with clear themes and all the emotions and emotional arcs that were missing otherwise.
One loves Bill T. for being an cool-headed intellectual who draws analogies, but this piece was so cold as to be DOA…rather a let-down for the season closer. But what a great thing it is for the ADF, and the assorted funders who helped support the making of this work, to give artists not only a place to succeed in their efforts, but a soft place to land when they fail.
The major universities in the area will be presenting a fair amount of dance during the 2017-18 season, so dance junkies will make it through until summer again. But if you are fretting, know that we are already at T minus 10 months and counting for ADF 2018.