There are two types of applause. There’s the trained-seal style applause one feels obliged to give at the end of a particular song or dance -- generally a three or four-minute increment in line with the short attention span encouraged our whole lives by pop radio.
But there’s a special, more genuine kind of catharsis reserved for the heartfelt applause that builds up over the course of a long, extended performance, one during which the audience has no opportunity to express their appreciation other than in silent wonder followed by pure delight.
That’s the catharsis we felt applauding the end of each half of Saturday night’s Savannah Music Festival performance of the Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Dance Company at the Lucas Theatre.
This endlessly inventive ensemble basically performed two very long dances – albeit each one being multi-layered in tempo and kineticism – one on each side of intermission, the only break in the action.
That may sound excruciating, but it was anything but. The performance was over before we knew it, the organic, gently unfolding nature of the dances enabling us to reach an easy near-trance state which both slowed and accelerated the passage of time.
The dancers, clad in casual yet sexy attire perhaps more at home in an American Apparel ad, represented a range of body types and appearances, with the common denominator of being every bit as sensual as they were athletic.
In Mr. Jones’s signature style, the choreography avoided the precious New-Agey tendencies of so much modern/contemporary dance. Indeed, much of the choreography seemed obliquely inspired by Tai Chi or even Kung Fu, with the dancers in frequent close contact, using each other’s bodies as fulcrums.
The introspection of these focused young dancers was spotlighted by the live music accompaniment, consisting of a string quartet in the first half playing Schubert’s ‘Death and the Maiden,’ and a full octet on the other side of the intermission playing Mendelssohn. These comforting, classically familiar strains – as opposed to the often more typical self-conscious music selections at many dance performances -- were an effective counterbalance to the often whimsically experimental nature of the dances themselves.
The overall effect was both warmth-inducing and awe-inspiring, and the audience appreciated this evening as much as any other Savannah Music Festival event I've seen in years of covering the event.
Speaking of the audience, on another positive note it was exciting to see such a good turnout for a dance event at the Savannah Music Festival. The Festival has never completely turned its back on dance, but dance events are notorious box office underachievers in Savannah, or have been; here’s hoping we’ve turned that particular corner and will see more and better dance performances locally.