Bill T Jones with company and community members

Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Company

What Problem?

“For the problem of the Twentieth Century is the problem of the color-line . . . the relation of the darker to the lighter races of men . . . And yet, being a problem is a strange experience,— peculiar even for one who has never been anything else.”  – W.E.B. Du Bois, The Souls of Black Folk (1903)

An institution in the dance world since the 1980s, the acclaimed Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Company’s latest work, What Problem?, explores the tension between belonging to a community and the feelings of isolation that many feel during these divisive political times. Adapted for proscenium stages from the massive work Deep Blue Sea (2021), Jones conceived of this highly personal project in pursuit of the elusive “we,” including a cast of local community members, a deconstructed text from Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech and Herman Melville’s Moby Dick. Jones and the company develop individual content with approximately 25 local community members in each of the touring locations, making each performance specific to its host city.

What Problem? explores collective redemption. The work is divided into three sections: the first section focuses on one person, Bill; in the second section the lone person is joined by the company of ten performers; in the third section the company is joined by the community. Participants will be invited to generate material and structures through guided improvisations and task-based instructions, which will become the vocabulary for the third section. The work will be unique to each community and the set of questions and instructions will be shaped by whom the participants are.

Funds provided by the Royce Center Circle Endowment.

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