What Does ‘Post-Emerging’ Look Like in Today’s Dance Landscape?

Bill T. Jones still remembers warming up backstage for one of his first New York City performances, in 1977: a solo at Dance Theater Workshop in Chelsea, as part of a series for up-and-coming experimentalists.

Jones was 25 and visiting from upstate New York, where he belonged to a small countercultural dance collective. He would be sharing that evening’s program with five other choreographers, including the Baroque dancer Catherine Turocy, the Merce Cunningham acolyte Kenneth King and the postmodern-ballet iconoclast Donald Byrd. To be suddenly surrounded by so many different aesthetics, he said in an interview, “was exhilarating and terrifying.”

“Quaintly, that was the big time,” he said. “A very important rite of passage. We felt that we had arrived.”

In the nearly 50 years since, a lot has changed at the institution formerly known as Dance Theater Workshop, where Jones is now the artistic director. In 2012, the theater merged with the Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Company to become New York Live Arts. But that right-of-passage series has endured. It has gone by a few names since it began, the year Dance Theater Workshop was founded, in 1965 — Studio Series, Choreographers Showcase and, since 1984, Fresh Tracks. But it remains a place, as Jones said, “to see where new ideas are just breaking the soil.”

On May 17 and 18, Live Arts presents the latest edition of Fresh Tracks, featuring works by Julia Antinozzi, Vinson Fraley, Liony Garcia and Symara Sarai. Selected through an open application and interview process, these choreographers join a long, star-studded roster of past participants that includes contemporary dance trailblazers like Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker, Molissa Fenley, Reggie Wilson and Tere O’Connor. In the tradition of eclectic shared evenings, theirs is diverse in its themes: the allure of ballet (Antinozzi), the possibility of rest (Fraley), the unpredictability of social media (Garcia) and the power of Black women’s autonomy (Sarai).

The choreographer and dancer Bill T. Jones around 1985. One of his first New York performances was for the series that is now called Fresh Tracks.
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