World Premiere of Deep Blue Sea by Bill T. Jones, Featuring the Renowned Choreographer in Performance with 100 Dancers and Community Members, Opens at Park Avenue Armory this Fall
Armory Commission Features Visual Environment Designed by Elizabeth Diller and Peter Nigrini
September 28 - October 9, 2021
Following this spring’s sold-out run of Afterwardsness, renowned director, choreographer, and dancer Bill T. Jones returns to Park Avenue Armory to present and perform in the world premiere of his monumental new work, Deep Blue Sea. The production marks Jones’ first time performing in over fifteen years. Using deconstructed texts from Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” and Herman Melville’s Moby Dick, the highly personal work explores the interplay of single and group identities and the pursuit of the elusive “we” during fractious times. Deep Blue Sea is Jones’ second Armory commission this year, following Afterwardsness—part of the Armory’s Social Distance Hall commissioning initiative—which was performed by the Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Company in the Wade Thompson Drill Hall in May.
The work commences with a solo by Jones and builds into a collective performance featuring 100 community members and dancers led by Jones and the Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Company. Conceived for the Drill Hall, Deep Blue Sea magnifies the vast space through a visual environment by Elizabeth Diller of the acclaimed architectural firm Diller Scofidio + Renfro and projections by Tony Award-nominated projection designer Peter Nigrini (Beetlejuice, Fela!). Diller's design utilizes dynamic projections, supported by theatrical lighting. This non-traditional relationship between video and theatrical lighting transforms the entire stage into a large-scale, immersive screen. An original vocal score by composer Nick Hallett and electronic soundscape by Hprizm aka High Priest, Rena Anakwe, and Holland Andrews echoes the words of King and Melville. Deep Blue Sea is commissioned by the Armory and Manchester International Festival in collaboration with the Holland Festival, and produced and developed in collaboration with New York Live Arts. Performances will run from September 28 to October 9, 2021.
“Through commissions like Deep Blue Sea, the Armory provides artists the support and the space to expand their creative practices in ways that would be unimaginable elsewhere. With this new work, Bill has harnessed the power of the Drill Hall once again to create a lyrical piece that is epic in size, emotion, and ambition,” said Rebecca Robertson, Founding President and Executive Producer of Park Avenue Armory. “Inviting community members from across the city into his choreography adds a meaningful new dimension to Deep Blue Sea, an element of gathering that takes on special resonance after this year of separation and isolation.”
“Bill T. Jones has long possessed a particular skill for harnessing the power of dance as both a narrative medium and a means to address contemporary issues. With Afterwardsness, Jones created a work that expressed the trauma and isolation of the twin pandemics of COVID-19 and ongoing racial violence. With Deep Blue Sea, he offers a glimpse of the salvation that can come with unity and community,” said the Armory’s Marina Kellen French Artistic Director Pierre Audi. “Intertwining his dynamic choreographic style with elements of spoken word, music, and design, Deep Blue Sea is a crowning achievement for Jones and a perfect embodiment of the kind of interdisciplinary work we are committed to commissioning.”
“Performing alongside the young, robust ensemble of the Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Company and the dynamic group of 90 community members gives me hope in these fractious times,” said Bill T. Jones. “The constantly morphing, evocatively weaving designs of Liz Diller and Peter Nigrini, as well as the emotionally complex score by Nick Hallett performed by Hprizm with a select group of vocalists, underscore the poignancy and power of the elusive ‘we’ this piece is in the pursuit of.”
A MacArthur “Genius” Award recipient and two-time Tony Award–winning choreographer (Spring Awakening, Fela!) revered internationally for his skill at storytelling through movement, Jones conceived this work as a creative response both to his own life and the pursuit of unity and community in divisive times. A collage of personal and textual references, Deep Blue Sea examines our desire for community and the vision of collective redemption.
In conjunction with Deep Blue Sea, the Armory will host an artist talk on Thursday, September 30 featuring Bill T. Jones and Elizabeth Diller in discussion about the process of creating this expansive new work for the Drill Hall.
Deep Blue Sea
Performances: September 28 – October 9, 2021
Monday – Thursday at 7:30pm
Friday and Saturday at 8:00pm
Tickets start at $40
A New Commission by Park Avenue Armory and Manchester International Festival in collaboration with Holland Festival
Featuring Bill T. Jones and Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Company
Produced and developed by Park Avenue Armory in collaboration with New York Live Arts
Creator and Director Bill T. Jones
Associate Director Janet Wong
Choreography Bill T. Jones, Janet Wong, and the Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Company
Visual Environment, Video Projection & Lighting Design Elizabeth Diller, DS+R, and Peter Nigrini
Composer and Music Director Nick Hallett
Electronic Score Hprizm, Rena Anakwe and Holland Andrews
Lighting Design Robert Wierzel
Sound Design Mark Grey
Costume Design Liz Prince
Dramaturg Mark Hairston
Artist Talk: Deep Blue Sea
Thursday, September 30 at 6:00pm
Health & Safety Protocols
All ticket-holders must be fully vaccinated. “Fully vaccinated” means that you received your final dose at least 14 days before your performance date. At check-in, ticket-holders will be required to show proof of full vaccination (the New York State Excelsior Pass or a hard copy or photo of your vaccination card).
Bloomberg Philanthropies is the Armory’s 2021 Season Sponsor.
Deep Blue Sea is supported in part by public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the city council. The production is also supported in part by public funds from the National Endowment for the Arts.
Support for Park Avenue Armory’s artistic season has been generously provided by the Charina Endowment Fund, The Harold and Mimi Steinberg Charitable Trust, the Fan Fox and Leslie R. Samuels Foundation, the Howard Gilman Foundation, the Horace W. Goldsmith Foundation, The Shubert Foundation, The Emma and Georgina Bloomberg Foundation, the Marc Haas Foundation, the Juliet Lea Hillman Simonds Foundation, the Leon Levy Foundation, the May and Samuel Rudin Family Foundation, the Richenthal Foundation, and the Isak and Rose Weinman Foundation. The artistic season is also made possible by the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of Governor Andrew M. Cuomo and the New York State Legislature. Additional support has been provided by the Armory's Artistic Council.