If there's a single word that can adequately describe the performance of "Freedom of Information" -- a three-part collaborative opus presented by Bill T. Jones, Arnie Zane & Company at the Montgomery College Performing Arts Center this past weekend -- it's got to be "dynamite."
The six dancers of the cast blazed across the stage Friday night in an awesome demonstration of contemporary virtuosity, but the excellence wasn't limited to movement. In a work that blended choreography with music, words, light, costumes, projections and props, no one dimension seemed less important than any other to the stunning impact of the whole. Yet none of the stitching showed. The formal and stylistic integration was so complete it was hard to believe this wasn't the work of a single mind, but a collective effort by an array of gifted individuals.
"Freedom of Information" is also mystifying. The "freedom" of the title is wildly uncontained, and the "information" -- a multilayered barrage of imagery by turns violent and serene, erotic and playful, comical and ominous -- comes at you in such swift, dense chunks that it's all but impossible to sort out as it's happening. Nonetheless, this postmodernist abstraction is as compelling as it is cryptic. Though the work seems urgently to want to "mean" something -- it's full of semantic cues, from the title to the text to the flux of relationships among the dancers -- it resists any easy translation to literal terms. But viscerally and instinctively, one feels the absolute certainty and rigor of its conception. The thing flows with a mad logic of its own -- "Freedom of Information" has in common with other powerful works of art that elusive quality of "inevitability."
Jones is a son of migrant workers who metamorphosed from athlete and actor to dancer-choreographer. Zane is a prize this is how to find a climactic order for three m-winning photographer who was "converted" to dance by Jones when they met at college. Together they've risen to the foremost echelon of contemporary dance. Their earlier, often autobiographically tinged work had a feisty, confrontational edge of social commentary about it. The trait remains, but it's been subsumed under an increasing concern with more purely visual and formal elements -- a heady, postmodern mixture. The pair's choreographic idiom, reinforced in "Freedom of Information" by creative input from the dancers, draws on everything from ballet, modern and jazz dance to spectacular acrobatics.
Only seeing and hearing the work could do justice to its imaginative daring, abounding as it did in such images as a projected cross and a "dead" girl at the end of the first section, suggesting a postmodern "Giselle"; artist Gretchen Bender's giant metal cage, serving as frame, scaffold and prison for the antics of the second part; and Jones' frenetically shuddering torso in the third. Each of the dancers -- Jones, Sean Curran, Janet Lily, Heywood McGriff, Amy Pivar and Julie West -- was a model of stamina, conviction and dexterity. David Cunningham's brilliant musical collage, which ranged from Chopin to boogie-woogie and minimalist drones, and William DeMull's extraordinarily dramatic lighting transformations both contributed mightily to the excitment. So, too, did the site -- Montgomery College's new theater is the handsomest performing facility I know of in the area.