“What Problem?” Explores Race and Belonging

Twenty-six Providence community members join Tony-Award-winning dancer Bill T. Jones, his ten-member company and four vocalists for “What Problem?”
Btj What Problem

The Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Company has been exploring issues concerning identity through dance and movement for four decades. Photo courtesy of FirstWorks.

Watch the revolutionaries of modern dance explore issues of identity in “What Problem?,” featuring two-time Tony-Award winning director, choreographer and dancer Bill T. Jones, his ten-member company, four vocalists and twenty-six local community members.

The Nov. 4 show is presented by Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Company and co-hosted by FirstWorks and Brown Arts Institute at Brown University. It starts at 7:30 p.m. at the Vets, 1 Avenue of the Arts, Providence.

“What Problem?” demonstrates the tension felt between community and feelings of isolation, experienced by many people in these political and divisive times. Serving as the foundation for spoken text that Jones presents on stage, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech and Herman Melville’s “Moby Dick” is revitalized through spoken word, dance and deep-rooted community collaboration. Jones reflects on King’s impactful phrase, “We shall overcome,” along with the first three words in the American Constitution, “We the people.”

With each touring location, Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Company develops content for “What Problem?” with local community members, resulting in performances that bring home the themes and messages of community to that specific host city.

The production’s participants range in age from high school students to residents in their seventies, representing the varied talents of Providence. As of now, members include: Alexa Barriga, Lisa Biggs, Mark Binder, Kira Kelly Clarke, Abby Cohen, Assitan ‘Sita’ Coulibaly, Lafayette Cruise, Freeman T. Freeman, Leah Grant, Satta Jalla, Aisha Jandosova, Christopher Johnson, Amy Joseph, Brenda Maria, Rosey Ok, Sophia Fern Pray, Tia-Alexi Roberts, Alison C. Rollins, Siraj Sindhu, Linda Spencer, Katrina Theth, Michelle Struckholz, Shaffany Piaget Terrell and Jada Lynn Wooten, with more to be announced.

Tickets range from $24–$79, available for purchase by calling 401-421-2787 or visiting  firstworks.org and arts.brown.edu.

Also catch Jones and Janet Wong, the associate artistic director of Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Company, at the Town Hall Conversation and Brunch on Nov. 5 at 11 a.m. at Brown Arts Institute, Granoff Center at Brown University’s Martinos Auditorium. Free reservations are available here.


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