Collision: Bill T. Jones and Daniel Bernard Roumain
March 16, 2006—2:00-3:00 p.m.
The American Music Center
Transcribed by Frank J. Oteri and Anna Reguero
Edited by Frank J. Oteri and Lyn Liston
Video presentation by Randy Nordschow
There was an overwhelming “attention must be paid” quality to choreographer Bill T. Jones’s presence at the press conference announcing the 2006 Lincoln Center Festival on March 1. He began his part of the presentation by singing in a deep mellifluous baritone voice. The crowd seemed slightly unsettled. Then, he started talking about security and how discourse has been hijacked in contemporary society.
By that point I’m sure I wasn’t the only person asking myself: “What on earth does this have to do with the Lincoln Center Festival?” The whole thing felt more like a stump speech at a political rally than a description of an upcoming performance. But by the time he finally began to speak about Blind Date, the work of his being staged at the festival this summer, all the dots somehow connected. He proved how vital and timely art could and should be as a portal for dealing with the key issues of the day.
So vital and timely, in fact, that we stopped the presses at NewMusicBox to feature him in our very next “Cover”—this one. And, since Blind Date continues Bill T. Jones’s ongoing collaboration with composer Daniel Bernard Roumain, we decided to set up a conversation between them. Seems like Daniel, or DBR as he is popularly known, is everywhere these days. (He has even been profiled on CBS Evening News.) But he is typically presented as a maverick crusader rather than someone very mindful of tradition and respectful of his mentors. The relationship between Jones and Roumain, which forges links between disciplines and generations, is refreshing and inspiring.
I started out with tons of questions for both of them, but once we turned on the camera, it became immediately clear that they had plenty to say without any help from me. Over the course of an hour, Jones and Roumain discussed their process of collaboration, how their work simultaneously operates inside and outside the cultural mainstream, and how to attract new audiences for the performing arts. Their conversation, like the work they have been creating both individually and in collaboration, is a spirited collision of ideas and provocations.