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Press Release

Bard College Dance Program Partners with World-Renowned Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Dance Company to Innovate Curriculum

Mark Primoff

ANNANDALE-ON-HUDSON, N.Y.— Beginning in fall 2009, the dance program at Bard College will partner with the Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Dance Company to offer new classes in dance technique and choreographic methods, as well as special campus-wide forums and workshops. Courses will be taught by current and former members of the Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Dance Company under the direction of Leah Cox, the company’s education coordinator. This innovative partnership will give Bard dance students the unique opportunity to work closely with a world-renowned professional company during their undergraduate course of study. “Bill’s work crosses so many intellectual boundaries, it seems like a perfect fit for Bard,” says Maria Simpson, professor of dance and director of the dance program at Bard. “This partnership represents our desire to develop a more wide-ranging vision for what dance can be in a liberal arts community. In addition to our current initiatives, our partnership with the Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Dance Company is an expanding relationship with a vision for future growth.”

The initial goal of the partnership is to enrich the existing Bard dance curriculum. The company will offer two courses in modern dance technique, both addressing the foundations of dance from the standpoint of the company’s physical aesthetic and imparting the company’s rigorous mental approach to movement. A creative structure/critical analysis course will explore Bill T. Jones’ process of creating original dance/theater work. Through critical analysis of recent company works and in-studio explorations of company choreographic structures and movement material, students will learn directly from Mr. Jones’ carefully crafted dances. Coursework will develop capable choreographers and dancers as adept participants in collaborative processes, preparing them for the working practices employed by many artists today. “Bill’s work is naturally discourse-driven and rooted in collaborations – a perfect fit for dancers with a strong intellectual drive, like those at Bard,” notes Leah Cox, education coordinator and senior dancer with the company. “For us to have the ability to share our material with artists-in-training is a fantastic way of seeing what they do with it. It’s a way for us to learn about them and ourselves, as well.”

This unprecedented partnership will provide several unique opportunities for Bard dance students. As part of the new affiliation, Bard’s dance program will have access to company archives for research and focused study. Company faculty will participate in student advising, and coursework will include interaction and dialogue with company performers and guest artists. Company faculty, as well as Bill T. Jones and associate artistic director Janet Wong, will participate in the critique and review of Sophomore Moderation and Senior Project performances, bringing an outside directorial and choreographic eye to student work. This ongoing presence of working artists on campus aims to establish a meaningful connection between undergraduate students and the professional dance/theater world.

The company’s New York City base allows off-campus experiences for students, taking advantage of Bard’s close proximity. Visits to company rehearsals and performances of Serenade/The Proposition are planned for the first semester.

Each semester the Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Dance Company will present a campus-wide event to explore the intersection of art and public life. The rigorous process of dance creation and the form’s cultural relevance in our time will be among the topics. Through these engagements, Bard students from all disciplines will be encouraged to consider their area of study as a collaborative component capable of engaging other disciplines in pursuit of a common goal, a hallmark of the work of the Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Dance Company throughout its 25-year history.


The Bard Dance Program sees the pursuit of artistry and intellect as a single endeavor. We believe that the study of the body is a cognitive act demanding both physical practice and academic exploration. We focus on dance and choreography as a performing art with an interdisciplinary scope. Students are exposed to areas of inquiry that represent the broader contexts in which the art form exists, in and outside of the arts. We expect students to take risks—risks that call on their participation as citizens of the world and cultivate their perceptive sensibilities. We foster the discovery of a dance vocabulary that is meaningful to the dancer/choreographer and essential to her or his creative ambitions. This discovery leads to the cultivation of original choices—choices informed by a full exploration of a student’s surroundings, choices that find expression in new and dynamic ways. We prepare dancers for the versatility and integration necessary to face the questions: Where will dance go next? What will the next dance revolution look like and where will it come from? We believe that serious inquiry in all areas of the liberal arts is critical to the development of the whole person and to the success of our future artists.

For more information, please visit or contact director Maria Simpson at 845-758-7996 or


The Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Dance Company is currently celebrating its 25th Anniversary season. The company was founded after 11 years of collaboration during which Bill T. Jones and Arnie Zane (1948–1988) redefined the duet form and foreshadowed issues of identity, form, and social commentary that would change the face of American dance. It emerged onto the international scene in 1983 with the world premiere of Intuitive Momentum with legendary drummer Max Roach, at the Brooklyn Academy of Music. Since then, the 10 member company has performed worldwide in over 200 cities in 30 countries including Australia, Brazil, Canada, the Czech Republic, Germany, France, Israel, Italy, Japan, Mexico, South Africa and the UK. Today, the Harlem-based Company is recognized as one of the most innovative and powerful forces in the modern dance world.

The company has distinguished itself through its teaching and performing in various universities, festivals and under the aegis of government agencies such as the US Information Agency (in Eastern Europe, Asia and South East Asia). Audiences of approximately 50,000 to 100,000 annually see the company across the country and around the world.

The work of the Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Dance Company freely explores both musically driven works and works using a wide variety of texts (such as Reading, Mercy and the Artificial Nigger based on Flannery O’Connor’s 1955 short story, The Artificial Nigger; and A Quarreling Pair based on Jane Bowles’ puppet play of the same name). The repertoire is widely varied in its subject matter, visual imagery, and stylistic approach to movement, voice, and stagecraft. The company has been acknowledged for its intensely collaborative method of creation that has included artists as diverse as Keith Haring, The Orion String Quartet, the Chamber Society of Lincoln Center, Cassandra Wilson, Fado singer Misia, Jazz pianist Fred Hersch, Ross Bleckner, Jenny Holzer, Robert Longo, Julius Hemphill, and Peteris Vasks, among others. The collaborations of the Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Dance Company with visual artists were the subject of Art Performs Life (1998), a groundbreaking exhibition at the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis, MN.

The Company has received numerous awards, including New York Dance and Performance Awards (“Bessie”) for Chapel/Chapter at Harlem Stage (2006), The Table Project (2001), D-Man in the Waters (2001 and 1989), musical scoring and costume design for Last Supper at Uncle Tom's Cabin/The Promised Land (1990), and for the 1986 Joyce Theater Season. The company was nominated for the 1999 Laurence Olivier Award for “outstanding achievement in dance and Best New Dance Production” for We Set Out Early... Visibility was Poor.

For more information, please visit or contact Bob Bursey, producing director, at 212-426-6655 x116 or

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This event was last updated on 08-26-2009