November 17, 2008 — Artist-in-residence Bill T. Jones last week merged University of Virginia students and community members with his professional group, the Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Dance Company, to produce a modern dance, "100 Migrations," inspired by the legacy of Abraham Lincoln.
The ensemble conveyed a moving interpretation Saturday in University Hall before an audience estimated at more than 1,500 people.
About 100 dancers representing the Union and Confederate armies of the Civil War danced around Lincoln's deathbed. A diagonal red slash marked Lincoln's position on the too-short bed as he lay mortally wounded.
During the performance, original music played while a speaker and singer read or sang excerpts from Lincoln's well-known speeches, as well as quotes from the Book of Revelation, which Frederick Douglass delivered in 1876 in memory of Lincoln. The dancers moved in smaller groups and commingled, signaling conflict and confusion, before each, one after another, walked the diagonal line.
Commissioned by the Chicago-based Ravinia Festival to create a work to mark the bicentennial of Lincoln's birth next year, Jones and his company will create similar productions in several cities as part of the research process leading up to the final piece.