Three years ago I wrote about the Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Company’s plans to develop a dance around the Ambros Adelwarth segment of W.G. Sebald’s The Emigrants. “Analogy/Ambros: The Emigrant” just had its world premiere on July 21, 2017 at Dancer’s Workshop in Jackson Hole, Wyoming. The dance is the final section of a trilogy which was first performed as a unit on the nights of July 27-29 at American Dance Festival 2017 in Durham, North Carolina. There is a 9 1/2 minute interview with Bill T. Jones on the dance on Soundcloud. The 90-minute dance was reviewed by Susan Broili in the Raleigh, North Carolina newspaper The News & Observer, in which the following excerpt appeared:
“Analogy/Ambros: The Emigrant” begins with the live sound of whispering voices and Bill T. Jones’ recorded recitation of evocative text from W. G. Sebald’s The Emigrants, a fictionalized history of four men, including Ambros Adelwarth, a German manservant who serves as companion to Cosmo, the privileged son of a wealthy Jewish family. The narrative tracks Ambros’ experience traveling with Cosmo, through Europe and the Middle East on the eve of WWII.
The recorded text describes how Ambros Adelwarth and his charge, Cosmo, asleep on the deck of a steam ship on their way to an excursion abroad, are visited by a quail, who lands on Cosmo, settles down to sleep, and then flies away in the morning.
In this work, Jones and collaborators, who include assistant artistic director Janet Wong, amaze with their scope and with the engaging quality of the multi-media elements woven seamlessly into the work.
The live music provides a rare treat as does the dancers’ singing with professional flare. Most of the time, their singing, both in solos and in harmony with others, is achingly beautiful.
The following is from the dance’s program as posted on the ADF website.
ANALOGY/AMBROS: THE EMIGRANT (2017)
Conceived and Directed by Bill T. Jones.
Choreography by Bill T. Jones with Janet Wong and the Company.
Text based on “Ambros Adelwarth” from The Emigrants by W.G. Sebald, performed with the permission of The Wylie Agency, LLC. All rights reserved.
Written by Bill T. Jones and Adrian Silver.
Original Score Composed by Nick Hallett.
Music Performed by Nick Hallett and Emily Manzo.
Décor by Bjorn Amelan.
Lighting Design by Robert Wierzel.
Costume Design by Liz Prince.
Video Design by Janet Wong.
Sound Design by Sam Crawford.
Dramaturgy by Adrian Silver.
Score includes musical themes based upon “Nachtstück” by Franz Schubert and :Alinde” by Franz Schubert.
Guitars recorded by Sam Crawford and Zach Layton.
Recorded strings performed by Pauline Kim Harris (violin) and Clarice Jensen (cello).
The Analogy Trilogy, which Bill T. Jones has been working on since 2013 with Janet Wong and the company, continues the company’s exploration of how text, storytelling, and movement pull and push against one other and how another experience can be had through the combination and recombination of these elements. All three works, while wildly different, consider the nature of service, duty, and the question of what is a life well lived. Director’s Note – Analogy/Ambros: The Emigrant
“Memory, often strikes me as a kind of dumbness. It makes one’s head heavy and giddy, as if one were not looking back down the receding perspectives of time but rather down on the earth from a great height, from one of those towers whose tops are lost to view in the clouds.”
I found two future performances of “Analogy/Ambros:The Emigrant”: November 18, 2017, Gammage Auditorium, Arizona State University, Tempe. February 3, 2018, Meany Center for the Performing Arts, University of Washington, Seattle.
Photo: Paul B. Goode