"Analogy/Lance" by the Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Company
Analogy/Lance, one of three full-length performances in Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Company’s Analogy Trilogy series, told the story of Jones’ nephew as he struggled with addiction and identity, and asked the audience to contemplate their own identities and how art impacted them. The show was two things running concurrently: a voiceover narrative based on phone calls between Jones and Lance, and dance interpretations loosely based on the subject matter of these narratives.
Many of the voice overs were a back-and-forth between Lance, paralyzed and struggling to live in a hospital, and Pretty, Lance’s sex work persona. In a scene titled “Private Dancer,” Pretty describes her experience stripping in NYC, saying “I was an artist. I started naked and got dressed.” Pretty is a self-constructed protection, a diva who struts around the stage, knowing that “everyone finds her fascinating,” hands extending like a crown atop her head. During the choreography process, Jones asked each dancer in the company to develop their own sex worker person to embody during the performance.
During another scene titled “The Shadow Life,” Lance and Pretty describe simultaneously living two different lives- one as an 8-year-old in the San Francisco Ballet School and the other having sex with white men in their 30s-50s in exchange for drugs and money. Although he is a child, Lance sees himself as the predator as he discusses seeking out pedophiles and blackmailing them. Meanwhile, two male couples dance together- one set on the floor and another on a stark white cot. As they contort themselves around each other, the word ‘contorture’ comes to mind.
Jones’ asks the audience to consider the role of art in our lives. In a voiceover he says “I used to say you’re not an artist until you turn your life into something beautiful. Now I would drop the ‘beautiful’ part.” Both Lance and Jones want to make art that is of service to others. During the Q&A after the show, Jones discussed how in commercial theater, “they are terrified you’ll leave feeling you ‘didn’t quite get it’ and feel inadequate. In dance, we’re asking you to get in here with us and help us figure it out. What does it mean to you?”
So what did this performance mean to me? As a pole dancer who has worked in night clubs, I could see my friends and co-workers, and even bits of myself, in Lance/Pretty. While a dancer ecstatically gyrated in a cage constructed on stage, I remembered the fun I had dancing in a similar cage above the crowds of drunk people late on a Friday night. As Pretty strutted her stuff, I remember constructing similar personas and how much fun it was to pretend to be someone else. You could be anyone- sexual, powerful, flirty, shy, the options were limitless. I appreciated that Jones showed both the ugly and the glamorous sides of club culture and sex work. It was all fun and drugs until you came down (physically and metaphorically) and looked around you, questioning the traumas you experienced along the way. Insisting you are the predator instead of admitting you might have been the prey makes you feel stronger. The narratives we tell ourselves help us survive, and seeing those narratives reflected back to us in someone else’s story helps us know we’re not alone. The beauty of art is that you never know which parts will resonate with another person, and drawing them in with what they personally relate to can allow them to consider other parts of the narrative that don’t reflect their own.
(If you’re interested in reading more about the Analogy/Trilogy series, check out Sarah Kauffman’s interview.)