What happens to a work of art when time displaces it from its original context and the momentum that inspired it? This is a question that can spark dry theories. But in “Can You Bring It ?: Bill T. Jones and D-Man in the Waters”, a new documentary directed by Tom Hurwitz and Rosalynde LeBlanc Loo, the response is passionate and moving.
Jones is the co-founder of the Bill T. Jones / Arnie Zane Company, a modern dance troupe. He was born out of the duo Jones formed with his partner Zane, who was not a dancer when they met in the early 1970s.
Zane died of AIDS-related lymphoma in 1988. The film provides a moving summary of their work-life collaboration before addressing the decisions Jones made following Zane’s death. One of those decisions took the form of the play “D-Man in the Waters”.
The dance was inspired by a series of group improvisations. It was a reflection of the troop’s experiences, struggles and losses. As a choreographic piece, it has since been performed by dozens of collegiate and professional companies. “Can you bring it?” That’s what Jones asks a group of dancers at Loyola Marymount College in 2016 as they prepare the piece under the direction of Loo, a former member of the Jones / Zane Company.
These students have little knowledge about AIDS, so Jones and Loo ask them to find points of struggle in their lives, as part of a student community or otherwise. The interweaving of vintage footage from the Jones / Zane company and the student production, as well as footage from another contemporary production of the play – shot with an intimacy on stage reminiscent of the in-ring segments of “Raging Bull” by Martin Scorsese – make for an exceptionally vivid documentary experience.
Can you bring it: Bill T. Jones and D-Man in the waters
Unclassified. Duration: 1 hour 34 minutes. In theaters.