Internationally known choreographer and performer, Bill Evans teaches, performs at IU
Bill Evans, an internationally known choreographer, dance educator, movement analyst and performer of modern dance and rhythm tap dance, spoke to Live at IU about his upcoming residency with Indiana University's Contemporary Dance Program in the School of Health, Physical Education and Recreation -- and his love for Bloomington.
Evans served as coordinator of IU's Modern Dance program and was an associate professor in the Department of Kinesiology from 1986-1988. Currently, he is a full-time visiting professor and guest artist in the Department of Dance at State University of New York College at Brockport. Evans will be in Bloomington from Oct. 4-14 to restage Impressions of Willow Bay with contemporary dance majors from IU (Evans originally choreographed the piece in 1978 to music composed by David Sannella).
While at IU, Evans will also teach a variety of master classes and will perform a solo rhythm tap concert with local musicians Joe Galvin and Amy Rempel on Saturday, Oct. 11. He will return during the week of Jan. 12 for an opening night performance and pre-concert dance talk.
LIU: Could you talk about your choreographic process? How do you go about transforming a piece of music into movement?
BE: I have been choreographing dance works for more than 50 years, and I have experienced many different processes as I have evolved as a human being and artist. Essentially, I don't like to repeat myself. I like to keep challenging myself to break out of previous patterns and try to find different aspects of myself through different processes. I do love music of many different styles and I often begin with that.
LIU: Impressions of Willow Bay was originally choreographed in 1978. Could you describe the choreographic process used for that piece?
BE: I choreographed in silence, while my friend David Sannella was composing his musical work. We did not put them together until both of us had finished our compositions. We then made modifications so that the two works would support each other. We both went deep into ourselves to access profound feelings we had about the beauty of the natural world of the Pacific Northwest, where we were both recent transplants. We tried to capture the qualities of that life in our respective art forms, and also to express the sense of affectionate support we were feeling from our colleagues, members of the professional Bill Evans Dance Company, at that time.
LIU: How will you go about restaging Impressions of Willow Bay with IU's contemporary dance majors?
BE: I will rely on videotapes of past performances of the piece by my professional company in the 1970's, and on my muscle memory, as well as on my feelings about the piece. I will try to recapture a place and time, and a stage in my development as a human being and artist, and share that with the young artists at IU. I may adapt the details of the original work to allow the young dancers to take full ownership of the essence of my original ideas.
LIU: On Saturday, Oct. 11 at 4 p.m., you will perform a solo rhythm tap concert with local musicians Joe Galvin and Amy Rempel. Could you explain the interplay between you and the other musicians? Is the music and dance improvised or arranged ahead of time?
BE: I will perform a combination of choreographed works to set musical arrangements and improvised works that we co-create spontaneously. I will probably use a few pieces of pre-recorded music for the rhythm tap classics that I'll be sharing. The musicians and I will meet and make a plan, including names of tunes, speeds and feelings. We will then improvise on those tunes, responding spontaneously to each other.
LIU: Where does rhythm tap originate?
BE: Rhythm tap is the name given to the art form created by mostly African American artists in the middle of the last century. It is both a musical form and a dance form. Many of the creators of the art form were jazz drummers as well as dancers. Rhythm tap developed within the culture of jazz music. It is a fusion of ancient African drumming rhythms and movements and rhythms of Irish step dancing and English clogging. It had its origins in New York City's Five Points neighborhood in the early years of the last century, when descendents of African American slaves and Irish and English immigrants exchanged rhythms and steps. It came to its fruition in the big band era.
LIU: What have you missed most about Bloomington and IU?
BE: I love the fact that one has big-city cultural stimulation because of the excellence of the university and small-town simplicity of life. I also love that Bloomington has been such an island of progressive enlightenment and inclusiveness in a state that is often ultra conservative. I left only because I was offered a comparable position at the University of New Mexico, a place where I had wanted to live since my first visit there in the late 1960s. I loved Bloomington and IU, and it was very difficult to make the decision to leave after only two years. I lived on Lake Monroe in Brown County. I have stayed in touch with IU and Bloomington friends over the years and some of them are still very important in my life. I am delighted that the Contemporary Dance Program has been revitalized in recent years. And I am delighted to have this opportunity to return to IU and share my work once again.
On Saturday, Oct. 11 at 4 p.m., Bill Evans will present a Rhythm/Tap/Jazz Showcase at the John Waldron Arts Center. The event is free and open to the public. On Jan. 16, the Contemporary Dance Program and Bill Evans will present the restaging of Impressions of Willow Bay at the Ruth N. Halls Theater. For more information about either performance, please contact Gwendolyn Hamm at 812-855-6076 or at firstname.lastname@example.org .