Woman warrior 

Choreographer presents experimental 'Antigone's Dream'

Coming from abackground in classical theater — her first theatrical role was in Euripedes' The Trojan Women — experimental choreographer Paul Josa-Jones says she's had a long-standing fascination with the character of Antigone.

Her new piece, Antigone's Dream, which will be performed at Agnes Scott April 14 and 15, takes the story of Antigone as its root. The dance captures fragments of Antigone's story as it is told in the Sophoclean drama, but also traces the subtext of her dreams, dreams which draw parallels between the Greek heroine and the everyday heroines of our time.

"We're not going to walk you through it," says Jones. "You have to dive into the poetry of the language and swim in it. Our idea in making this piece and calling it Antigone's Dream was to not locate it in her day-to-day life but to locate it in the life of her dreams and the life of her psyche. There are references to elements of her story, references to her relationship with Oedipus her father. But primarily it's dream language."

The performance at Agnes Scott represents the first time Jones' company will perform in the Atlanta area. The poetic text is by playwright Laurie Carlos, and the score by composer Pauline Olivieros, currently in residence at Agnes Scott, is an evocative and densely layered soundscape, a mix of digital and sampled sounds with an emphasis on vocals, cello and percussion. The piece is performed by six dancers and an actress.

Jones says that Oliviero's concept of deep listening — a method of concentration that attempts to use the entire body and consciousness — has influenced her work tremendously. "Pauline's deep listening strategies are an integral part of my way of working," she says. "I think her deep listening strategies create in my company a way of working as an ensemble, which gives the movement a particular tautness and a charge because the quality of the tension between the performers is so focused and specific. She's a terrific inspiration in my work."

Jones began her work in the theater 25 years ago. After several years in classical and experimental theater, she began an eclectic, wide-ranging study in dance, beginning with African master teacher Charles Moore and including intensive work with Japanese modern dance, Eiko, Koma and Authentic Movement.

Jones' style of choreography is similar to classical modern dance but is strongly influenced by contemporary Japanese dance. "The movement has much more nuance and subtlety and complexity than a lot of classical-modern dance, which is more rooted in ballet," she says. "I think of the movement as being more stressed, more decayed, more frayed, more pulled."

As a choreographer, Jones says she never arrives at rehearsal with steps in mind but keeps the emphasis on improvisation instead. Her dancers are classically trained, but the work that goes on in rehearsal and on stage has very little to do with that training. The movement emerges out of improv and imagery and what she calls body research. "It's really about trying to uncover a physical and emotional truth that gives the movement a reason to be there, not just that the choreographer said do that step."

The choice of Antigone was a natural one for the three women artists, Jones says.. "I think she's important to us now because she raises questions about heroism and honor and identity that I think are poignant and pressing questions," she says. "I think it raises important questions to kids who are struggling with who they are. Personally I've been struck by the disconnectedness I see among youth, that whole thing of feeling disenfranchised, disconnected, not feeling a sense of history or community. Her life is important and her action is inspiring."

Paula Josa-Jones/Performance Works presents Antigone's Dream at Agnes Scott College April 14-15 at 8 p.m. in Presser Hall, Maclean Auditorium. Paula Josa-Jones and Pauline Olivieros participate in a panel discussion April 12 at 10 a.m. in Presser Hall. Admission is free and open to the public. 404-471-6430


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