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TED2015

Bill T. Jones: The dancer, the singer, the cellist ... and a moment of creative magic

March 18, 2015

Legendary dance choreographer Bill T. Jones and TED Fellows Joshua Roman and Somi didn't know exactly what was going to happen when they took the stage at TED2015. They just knew they wanted to offer the audience an opportunity to witness creative collaboration in action. The result: An improvised piece they call "The Red Circle and the Blue Curtain," so extraordinary it had to be shared ...

Bill T. Jones - Director/choreographer, dancer
With his artistry and creativity, Bill T. Jones has inspired a generation of dancers, choreographers -- and audiences. Full bio

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Double-click the English subtitles below to play the video.
Isadora Duncan --
00:12
(Music) --
00:14
crazy, long-legged woman
from San Francisco,
00:16
got tired of this country,
and she wanted to get out.
00:21
Isadora was famous
somewhere around 1908
00:27
for putting up a blue curtain,
00:32
and she would stand
00:37
with her hands over her solar plexus
00:39
and she would wait,
00:43
and she would wait,
00:46
and then, she would move.
00:49
(Music)
00:53
Josh and I and Somi call this piece
01:21
"The Red Circle and the Blue Curtain."
01:27
Red circle.
01:36
Blue curtain.
01:39
But,
01:43
this is not the beginning
of the 20th century.
01:51
This is a morning in Vancouver
01:55
in 2015.
02:00
(Music)
02:03
(Singing)
02:34
Come on, Josh!
03:25
(Music)
03:28
(Singing)
03:46
Go!
04:06
Are we there yet?
04:24
I don't think so.
04:26
Hey, yeah!
04:29
(Music)
04:31
What time is it?
04:49
(Music)
04:51
Where are we?
04:53
Josh.
04:58
Somi.
05:03
Bill T.
05:06
Josh.
05:08
Somi.
05:13
Bill T.
05:18
(Applause)
06:02
Yeah, yeah!
06:20

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Joshua Roman - Cellist
Joshua Roman, a TED Fellow, is an independent-minded cellist.

Why you should listen

Dubbed a “Classical Rock Star” by the press, cellist Joshua Roman has earned a national reputation for performing a wide range of repertoire with an absolute commitment to communicating the essence of the music at its most organic level. Before embarking on a solo career, he was for two seasons principal cellist of the Seattle Symphony, a position he won in 2006 at the age of 22. For his ongoing creative initiatives on behalf of classical music, he has been selected as a 2011 TED Fellow, joining a select group of Next Generation innovators who have shown unusual accomplishments and the potential to positively affect the world.

Roman’s 2009–10 season engagements include debuts as concerto soloist with the San Francisco Symphony, as well as the Albany, Arkansas, and Santa Barbara Symphonies, the New Philharmonic Orchestra in Illinois, Oklahoma’s Signature Symphony, and Kentucky’s Lexington Philharmonic. In recent seasons he has performed with the Seattle Symphony, where he gave the world premiere of David Stock’s Cello Concerto, as well as with the Symphonies of Edmonton, Quad City, Spokane, and Stamford, and the Oklahoma City Philharmonic, among others. In 2008, Roman performed Britten’s third Cello Suite during New York’s Mostly Mozart Festival in a pre-concert recital at Avery Fisher Hall. In April 2009, he was the only guest artist invited to play an unaccompanied solo during the YouTube Symphony Orchestra’s debut concert at Carnegie Hall.

In addition to his solo work, Roman is an avid chamber music performer. He has enjoyed collaborations with veterans like Earl Carlyss and Christian Zacharias, as well as the Seattle Chamber Music Society and the International Festival of Chamber Music in Lima, Peru. He often joins forces with other dynamic young soloists and performers from New York’s contemporary music scene, including Alarm Will Sound, So Percussion, and artists from the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center’s CMS Two. In spring 2007, he was named Artistic Director of TownMusic, an experimental chamber music series at Town Hall in Seattle, where he creates programs that feature new works and reflect the eclectic range of his musical influences and inspirations.

Committed to making music accessible to a wider audience, Roman may be found anywhere from a club to a classroom, whether performing jazz, rock, chamber music, or a solo sonata by Bach or Kodály. His versatility as a performer and his ongoing exploration of new concertos, chamber music, and solo cello works have spawned projects with composers such as Aaron Jay Kernis, Mason Bates, and Dan Visconti. One of Roman’s current undertakings is an online video series calledThe Popper Project—wherever the cellist and his laptop find themselves, he performs an étude from David Popper’s “High School of Cello Playing” and uploads it, unedited, to his YouTube channel. Roman’s outreach endeavors have taken him to Uganda with his violin-playing siblings, where they played chamber music in schools, HIV/AIDS centers, and displacement camps, communicating a message of hope through music.

Somi - Vocalist, composer and culturist
With her lustrous voice and wide-ranging musical curiosity, Somi spins elegant vocal jazz from African legacies.

Why you should listen

In late 2011, East African vocalist and songwriter Somi moved from New York City to Lagos, Nigeria, for 18 months in search of new inspiration. The result: her chart-topping 2014 major label debut, The Lagos Music Salon (Sony Music). The album, with guests Angelique Kidjo, Common and Ambrose Akinmusire, draws its material from the tropical city's boastful cosmopolitanism, urgent inspiration and giant spirit, straddling the worlds of African jazz, soul and pop with a newfound ease and voice that Vogue Magazine calls "powerful."

Born in Illinois to immigrants from Rwanda and Uganga, African and Jazz legacies are crucial to Somi's sound. Referred to as a modern-day Miriam Makeba, JazzTimes magazine describes her performance as "the earthy gutsiness of Nina Simone blended with the fluid vocal beauty of Dianne Reeves," while Billboard remarks that she's "all elegance and awe... utterly captivating." 

In 2013, Somi was invited by Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon to perform at the United Nations' General Assembly in commemoration of the International Day of Rememberance of the Victims of Slavery and the Transatlantic Slave Trade.  

A TED Senior Fellow, inaugural Association of Performing Arts Presenters Fellow, founder of the non-profit New Africa Live, and a two-time recipient of the Doris Duke Foundation's French-American Jazz Exchange Composers’ Grant, Somi began an exploration of African and Arab jazz traditions alongside French-Lebanese trumpeter Ibrahim Maalouf, while investigating the role of the female voice during the Arab Spring protests. That body of work was premiered at the Kennedy Center’s 2014 Mary Lou Williams Jazz Festival. Somi is a 2015 Artist-in-Residence at UCLA's Center for the Art of Performance and The Robert Rauschenberg Foundation.

She is currently working on a jazz opera about the life and legacy of South African singer and activist Miriam Makeba.

 

 

Bill T. Jones - Director/choreographer, dancer
With his artistry and creativity, Bill T. Jones has inspired a generation of dancers, choreographers -- and audiences.

Why you should listen

In 1982, Bill T. Jones co-founded the Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Dance Company with his partner Arnie Zane. As the company’s artistic director and choreographer, Jones has created more than 140 works, and in 2011, merged his company with New York’s historical Dance Theater Workshop to create New York Live Arts. The company’s 2015 piece Analogy/Dora: Tramontane is based on Jones’ mother-in-law’s recollections of life under the Nazi occupation of France.

Jones is a 1994 MacArthur Fellow; he received the Kennedy Center Honors in 2010 and the National Medal of Arts from President Obama in 2013. He has won two Tony awards for Best Choreography, for the Broadway musicals Spring Awakening in 207 and Fela! in 2010. Jones is the author of a memoir, Last Night on Earth, and Story/Time, a reflection on his 2012 piece inspired by the work of John Cage.

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