Bill Evans

Bill Evans Dance in Albuquerque

Watching Bill Evans dance reminded me of playing handball with my 80-year-old grandfather.  I would fling myself around the court with youthful exuberance and inexperience while he showed an economy of motion, winning every match with keen observation and wisdom of the game.  It was humbling, juch as witnessing the final performance of the Wild Dancing West Festival in Albuquerque where Bill Evans celebrated his 70th birthday and close to six decades of dance.

The program, “On Turning 70!,” began with an evocative series of preludes for his mother, Lila Snape Evans, who recently passed away at age 97.  The tap dance moved from simple and joyful twirls to slow, somber sweeping gestures upward, as if to receive whatever gifts his mother might still bestow.  Half the show commemorated those he had lost; his father, William Evans, his mentor, Daniel Nagrin, and a dear friend/composer, Michael Cava.  In between pieces, Evans was a storyteller, telling us about the moment he chose to become a modern dancer at age 20 while watching Nagrin dance, how mesmerized he was at how thoughtful, personal, and expressive an adult male could be on stage, or about how his brother had chastised him about wanting to perform at his fathers memorial, telling him “Mormons dont dance at funerals, Billy.”

Evans quite lovingly takes you along the emotional continuum, adding levity to the program with Jukebox, a piece choreographed in just four hours in 1974, a fluke, really, to cover time during a costume change in the program. Performed by Evanss longtime dance and life partner, Don Halquist, garbed in dapper tennis whites, performs a bawdy romp to Whats Your Story, Morning Glory?, wherein a tennis racket becomes both the object of the dancers affection as well as an erect signifier of that affection.

And the final piece, In Gloves, danced with Don Halquist, as much a comedy routine as a dance performance, celebrates the nuances and eccentricities of their long term relationships through spoken word and movement.  Their subtle and humorous interaction is both artful and intimate, leaving no divide between the dancers and their dance.  When Bill Evans first begins to dance, its inspiring because we all wish to move with such athleticism and grace at age 70, but the true beauty of the performance comes when you forget his age and become engrossed in the sheer talent and clear passion with which this man has dedicated, quite literally, his entire life.

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