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Q&A: Bill Evans

by Danielle Georgiou 18 Jul 2012 4:20 PM

The legendary dancer, choreographer and educator previews his appearance this weekend at Contemporary Dance/Fort Worth’s Modern Dance Festival at The Modern.


Guest blogger Danielle Marie Georgiou is the artistic director and choreographer of DGDG: Danielle Georgiou Dance Group. She also serves as the Assistant Director of the UT Arlington’s Dance Ensemble. And she’s a member of Muscle Nation. This piece first appeared on TheaterJones.

Bill Evans wears many hats. He is an internationally known choreographer, teacher, administrator and movement analyst. But at the end of the day, he is a dancer. It’s what he loves, it’s what he needs, and it’s where his heart is.

Bill Evans in motion. Photo: Jim Dusen

A Utah native, Evans began his performing career as a child. He then went on to study at the University of Utah, receiving a BA in ballet and an MFA in modern dance, plus a DFA (honorary doctorate of fine arts) from Cornish College of the Arts in Seattle. In 1968, he joined the Utah Repertory Dance Theatre, where he distinguished himself as a leading dancer and choreographer. In 1970, he founded the Bill Evans Solo Dance Repertory, followed by Bill Evans Dance Company in 1975 and the Bill Evans Rhythm Tap Ensemble in 1992. He has been producing, directing and performing his own work ever since.

While working as a dancer and choreographer, Evans began to find his own voice in the movement vocabularies he was studying. A Certified Movement Analyst in Laban and Bartenieff techniques, Evans slowly began to integrate the two languages to create his own. One of his foremost achievements has been the creation of a modern dance technique that emphasizes total mind-body integration that has influenced numerous dancers and dance teachers since 1976. Not many people can say that they have created their own technique, and we hadn’t had a new one to study for decades before Evans came long. His contribution is quite the milestone.

I spoke with Bill about his return to Texas to participate once again in Contemporary Dance/Fort Worth’s Modern Dance Festival at The Modern.

Danielle Georgiou: Are you looking forward to coming back to Texas? I know it’s a been almost two years since you were last here.

Bill Evans: Yes! I’m very excited! I actually used to come to Dallas often, and I even worked here. I had a series of residencies at SMU, and the arts magnet school (Booker T. Washington High School for the Performing and Visual Arts). I have a very long history visiting and working in Dallas, so it will be great to come back and to be a part of the program in Fort Worth (at The Modern Art Museum and Texas Christian University).

D.G.: How did you first meet Kerry Kreiman (artistic director of CD/FW) and get to know Contemporary Dance/Fort Worth?

B.E.: I’ve known Kerry for a long time, so long, I can’t even remember! She was first a student of mine. She was very interested in my technique and wanted to get involved in the certification program I created. She was actually in the first graduating class. I’d say we’ve known each other for about 20 years.

D.G.: Can you talk a little more about your certification program, and about your own personal technique style?

B.E.: Sure, the Evans Modern Dance Technique came about rather organically. It utilizes the language and concepts of Laban Movement Analysis and Bartenieff Fundamentals. It works to integrate the two systems and create a common language. It’s all about total mind-body integration.

The certification program started in 1999 and is a four-year long program. Dancers and choreographers attend four summer sessions and complete project-based works on their home turf. After you receive your certification, you are able to teach the technique anywhere you like, and you can take the ideas and integrate them into your own work. It’s structured to give dancers ideas for future work and give them a starting point for what direction they want to take their style in.

D.G.: There are not many people who can say they created their own movement technique and have maintained a dance company for over 30 years. It’s very impressive, and completely inspiring.

B.E.: Thank you! Yes, it’s been great. I have been able to do a lot with my career and to perform in so many different countries, and to teach.

D.G.: How important is teaching to you?

B.E.: It’s very important. It’s the best way to really educate young dancers. It’s the best way to really give them a chance, and the security, to explore new ideas, understand the possibilities available to them, and to construct new works that help them define their own style.

D.G.: You’re also active in arts advocacy.

B.E.: Yes, and that’s an extremely important component. I’ve served on many boards [including, the National Dance Education Organization, American College Dance Festival Association and the National Dance Association, to name a few], and it’s been great to see all that we can accomplish when we come together [Evans spoke before the U.S. Congress on behalf of the American Arts Alliance and was a panelist for the National Endowment for the Arts].

D.G.: It’s so wonderful that you have been such an integral part of the American dance landscape and have maintained such a strong foothold in this world, both as an artist and as an advocate. And you still have the time to dance! You’re actually performing two pieces at CD/FW’s Modern Dance Festival at The Modern. Can you talk about them a little?

B.E.: I’ll be performing my own tap version of Gershwin’s Three Preludes and Daniel Nagrin’s 1958 solo, Blue Man. The tap is more a fusion: a mix of modern dance and rhythmic tap. It’s about making percussive sounds and creating a 3-D effect; it’s about blending concert dance with theater dance. The solo is a piece I learned from my mentor, Daniel Nagrin. It was choreographed in 1958, and I learned it in 1980 and have re-created the work now. It is only supposed to be performed for educational purposes, as is most of Nagrin’s work, and this performance seemed like the perfect place to do it. It’s also a way for me to teach young dancers about this choreographer, who worked to bridge the gap between jazz music and modern dance.

The Dance Company will be performing a new version of Craps, which I originally set in 1979, and a solo, Harold, that will be performed by Don Halquist.

Bill Evans and his Dance Company, along with dancer Lonny Joseph Gordon and CD/FW, will stage “A Choreographers Showcase” on Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m. in the Grand Lobby of The Modern. Also on Saturday, at 2 p.m., Evans will give a lecture, “Teaching What I Want To Learn,” in the Museum Auditorium. He will reflect on his career and choreography and give insight into his teaching philosophy. A short Q&A will follow. Admission is free to all events.