30 October 2006

Blind Date

Blind Date
Bill T Jones/Arnie Zane Dance Company
Melbourne International Arts Festival
25 October 2006
the Arts Centre, State Theatre

Review by Christina Cass

Blind Date is a multi-sensory experience unlikely to make you casually walk out of the theatre and drive back to your nice, safe home nestled far away from the madding roar of war.

I was unhappy at first that this hugely layered undertaking by the Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Dance Company seemed to be some more trite America bashing – the U.S. national anthem, army fatigues, symbolic death on the battlefields juxtaposed with peace protectors…… I’m just tired of people taking jabs at Uncle Sam and here I had to sit through an hour and a half of a visual and aural bombardment of political and social atrocities performed by a highly acclaimed American dance troupe. “Whaaaa!?!?!?” you may say, but therein lays the spirit of Jones’ work: pushing buttons so we ask ourselves, “Why are we so uncomfortable with this?”

Not in the mood for a psychotherapy session either, I reluctantly took a stab at it: “What is it about Blind Date that was such a turn off?” Was it aural and visual overload with all the videos and spoken word and live music and dancing and poetry and gigantic dead yellow duckies floating above the stage that kept me from zeroing in on the theme? Was I frustrated that I wasn’t able to find more than the obvious anti-war message? That I couldn’t ‘get it’?

It turns out I was totally off the mark to look for a message from Jones hidden somewhere in the work. It was in plain view the entire time. Jones believes our global culture is awash with “toxic certainty” – the right or wrong of a particular position and in Blind Date, he takes on the concept of patriotism. To him, honour, sacrifice and identity are best observed in the phenomenon of young soldiers willing to participate in a misguided war. If those of us, who are not fighting, reject this idea of patriotism, then we must ask ourselves, “Do we believe in anything with the same passion that we are willing to die for it?”

Good point.

Jones, as many artists do, takes a social stand laced with political poison. Rather than ram his own personal opinions down the throats of his audience, he asks us to merely take a bit more care in understanding our own philosophies and where they come from. He asks us to take a stand, not point a finger.

This review originally appeared on AussieTheatre.com.

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