The second evening of Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Company’s performance of the "Analogy Trilogy" examined the challenging journey of Jones’ nephew through drug addiction, prostitution, jail and illness during the 1980s and '90s. "Lance: Pretty aka The Escape Artist" used text, music and set design, showcasing the great talent of the ensemble in all that they do — singing, acting and dancing — as well as Jones’ ability to examine life through art.
"Lance" presents a twofold conflict: the external push and pull of temptation and excess, and Lance’s battle with his inner demons, most significantly his alter-ego “Pretty,” a drag queen with a risky appetite. Along the way there are different forces that influence Lance’s path — people of the street, family — and although it is not crystal-clear where he ends up, he seems to be closer to some kind of hope for a better day.
The set design by Bjorn Amelan is a magical element which moves the story along and gives it shape and dimension. Lighting design and music also fill in the picture of dance clubs and hospital rooms. Another layer that deepens the theatrical nature of the work is the video design by Janet Wong, the company’s associate director.
This world is very different from the first part of the "Analogy Trilogy," with its sharper edges and an in-your-face message. The choreography here at times feels cliche and repetitive, but is strongest in the duets which not only simulate sexual encounters and convey a dire need for love and acceptance.
As this is Jones’ sixth visit to the Spoleto Festival, many of his patrons here know that his subject matter often is challenging, "Lance" is no exception as it delves into the lives of the marginalized in our society, exploring identity, survival and family. In the end, it is the greater sense of humanity that one gratefully takes away from it.
Reviewer Eliza Ingle is a dance instructor, writer and radio host in Charleston.