Through the Mason Artists-in-Residence program, students, alumni, and community members performed onstage with legendary choreographer Bill T. Jones (ABOVE, at far left). / Photos by Christopher Bobo.
The Center for the Arts was the site for a world premiere performance on Saturday, February 1 by renowned masters of modern dance, the Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Company.
Their performance, titled What Problem?, explored the tension between belonging to a community and feelings of isolation during divisive political times. It included an onstage collaboration by the company’s dancers with a group of 22 students, alumni, and Northern Virginia community members, who trained with the company for a week prior to the performance. What Problem? was set to spoken word and original live music sung by the Mason University Singers, led by Dr. Stan Engebretson (see review by DC Metro Theater Arts).
The performance capped a weeklong visit by the Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Company as Mason Artist-in-Residence, that included a technical residency in the Concert Hall, six masterclasses with Mason School of Dance students, a masterclass with Fairfax County Public Schools’ Fairfax Academy dance students, multiple Mason classroom visits, and collaborations on campus with student groups.
Bill T. Jones also joined Mason professor Wendi Manuel-Scott and Franklin Dukes of the University of Virginia for a public town hall conversation on community, identity, and art held in Old Town Fairfax on January 29. A groundbreaking leader in modern dance since the 1980s, Jones is the recipient of the National Medal of Arts, Kennedy Center Honors Award, and multiple Tony awards.
“One of the most formidable obstacles to creating new performance works is the time, space and know-how necessary to put an idea up on its feet and find an audience for it,” Jones said about his visit to Mason. “I was exhilarated to participate in Mason’s Artists-in-Residence program, as it succeeded in addressing the above concerns offering a way to the future of new performance!”
The performance was followed by a champagne reception in the Linda Apple Monson Grand Tier at which Mason arts supporters and special guests joined the company’s dancers, creative team, and staff for a champagne toast. Friends of the Center for the Arts members Jim and Janice Wolfe were co-hosts of the reception.
“The arts create community. That’s our motto,” dean of the College of Visual and Performing Arts Rick Davis said at the reception. “And how deeply was that lived and felt tonight. That’s what this whole week of residency was about. That’s what this performance was about.”
Mason Interim President Anne Holton, also addressing the guests, added that “access to excellence in the arts is something we pride ourselves on here—especially our ability to bring this type of experience to our Mason students and the wider Fairfax community.”
The Mason Artists-in-Residence program serves the mission of the College of Visual and Performing Arts to make the arts an intrinsic part of the lives of every Mason student and Northern Virginia resident. The program is supported by ARTSFAIRFAX and by the university’s own Office of Research, Innovation, and Economic Impact.
The Artists-in-Residence program will be featured in CVPA fundraising efforts on Mason’s upcoming Giving Day (April 2, 2020), which will include two challenge grants for continued support of the program.
Rob Riordan / Feburary 7, 2020